The different rear wing approach that helped Hamilton win

Lewis Hamilton's storming charge to victory in the Formula 1 Portuguese Grand Prix showed again his brilliance at overtaking and tyre management.

The different rear wing approach that helped Hamilton win

But there are also some interesting technical aspects to the triumph, as his success was helped both by the way Mercedes has got on top of its early balance issues, plus a different rear wing choice to teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Read Also:

Fighting Red Bull

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, battles with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, battles with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

The battle between Mercedes and Red Bull at the front is the closest we have seen in a number of years, as the Silver Arrows recovers from the losses associated with the new tyres and regulations.

Meanwhile, Red Bull has been catapulted into the fray having fixed some of the chassis and aerodynamic issues that plagued it last season. Plus Honda has fast-tracked its new power unit too.

Red Bull has also continued to turn the screw with yet another fairly large update package on the car in Portugal.

Mercedes, ever since its troubled pre-season test, has worked diligently to iron out its weaknesses and haul itself back towards Red Bull, who arguably had the advantage heading into the first race.

It has done this with only a handful of aerodynamic updates too, with much more attention paid to how it can extract the best from the set-up of the car and package at hand.

Portugal proved to be no exception, with the tricky low grip track surface allied to uncertainty about how best to manage the tyres, put the emphasis firmly on teams to come up with a well handling car.

Hamilton/Bottas split

Mercedes looked well sorted from the off, but it was fascinating to see Hamilton end up going down a different route on his downforce levels compared to teammate Bottas.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Mercedes has two different rear wing set-ups available to its drivers and we will often see them trying out both during the free practice sessions to establish which one offers them the performance level they're after at that specific track.

The changes might not seem drastic from the outside, but they do offer up subtle differences that allow them to run different downforce levels, whilst offsetting this against the drag penalty and the DRS effect.

Mercedes W11 rear wing comparison

Mercedes W11 rear wing comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The main visual difference between the two arrangements is the single or double pillar arrangement (seen above in the illustration of last year's W11), with both offering different structural and aerodynamic characteristics that are often dictated by the circuit configuration and characteristics.

It's unclear if Mercedes actively opted to split its drivers, given the threat posed by Verstappen, or whether it was a conscious set-up decision by each.

But Hamilton's set-up on the rear wing arrangement, with two pillars, had significantly less wing than the rear wing installed on Bottas' car, which would potentially give the Brit a straightline speed boost but make life a little more difficult in the corners.

This seemed to play out accurately between the pair during qualifying, where Hamilton lost out to his teammate, who had a more stable rear end when it counted most toward the end of the lap.

However, in playing the long game and thinking of the race, more so than the qualifying session, it appears that Hamilton's set-up allowed him to not only strike against his rivals when necessary but also keep his tyres in a more stable operating window during the race.

Read Also:

Bottas' set-up allowed the Finn to get the tyres into the temperature window more easily for qualifying, where you only need them to be there for a handful of laps.

However, during the race, this can be detrimental to the performance and longevity of the tyre, as the bulk temperature of the tyre goes up and this has an impact on the tread platform, which begins to slide more as a consequence.

Meanwhile, Hamilton, whose car was trimmed out a little more, was driving slightly different lines as a result of his car's configuration, which led to him managing the tyres differently.

This was perhaps the reason why his pace didn't seem as good as Bottas and Verstappen in the opening laps, as they had more downforce on their cars to fire the temperature into the tyres. But they would suffer from the fallout of that later in the first stint.

So, while we heard Hamilton report about there being "definitely a lot of wear today", this was how he felt the tyres were behaving, even though he was getting a different response to them than his rivals.

As usual this was cooly managed by his race engineer, Pete Bonnington, who warned him as he approached Bottas that he might need to do some more front tyre management as the "front casing's just starting to creep up a little".

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, battles with Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, battles with Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

You also have to consider that being the car that's chasing, rather than being chased, gave Hamilton the opportunity to use DRS. This alters the aerodynamic behaviour of the car and gives the tyres a bit of a breather down the straights.

So, whilst he suffered the pain of being behind in the opening stages, it may have actually helped him manage his tyres and strategy in that opening phase of the race as a consequence.

Hamilton's long game in set-up choice, and his willingness to be patient in working his way to the front, ultimately proved decisive in giving him the tools he needed to come out on top again.

shares
comments

Related video

Wolff may reconsider Bottas radio messages after pace 'flatlined'
Previous article

Wolff may reconsider Bottas radio messages after pace 'flatlined'

Next article

Haas vows to improve communication after Mazepin/Perez near-miss

Haas vows to improve communication after Mazepin/Perez near-miss
Load comments
How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations Prime

How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations

OPINION: The pressure is firmly on Red Bull and Mercedes as Formula 1 2021 embarks on its final double-header. How the respective teams deal with that will be a crucial factor in deciding the outcome of the drivers' and constructors' championships, as Motorsport.com's technical consultant and ex-McLaren F1 engineer Tim Wright explains.

How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison Prime

How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison

He’s had a hand in world championship-winning Formula 1 cars for Benetton, Renault and Mercedes, and was also a cog in the Schumacher-Ferrari axis. Having recently ‘moved upstairs’ as Mercedes chief technical officer, James Allison tells Stuart Codling about his career path and why being axed by Benetton was one of the best things that ever happened to him.

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2021
The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback Prime

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback

It’s easy to look at Robert Kubica’s second Formula 1 career and feel a sense of sadness that he didn’t reach the heights for which he seemed destined. But as Ben Anderson discovered, performance and results are almost meaningless in this context – something more fundamental and incredible happened…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2021
The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren Prime

The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren

From being lapped by his own teammate in Monaco to winning at Monza, it’s been a tumultuous first season at McLaren for Daniel Ricciardo. But, as he tells STUART CODLING, there’s more to the story of his turnaround than having a lovely summer holiday during Formula 1's summer break...

Formula 1
Nov 26, 2021
The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title Prime

The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title

As the battle continues to rage over the F1 2021 drivers' championship, teams up and down the grid are turning their attentions to the prize money attributed to each position in the constructors' standings. But F1's sliding scale rules governing wind tunnel and CFD use will soften the blow for those who miss out on the top places

Formula 1
Nov 25, 2021
The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher Prime

The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher

After winning his past few Formula 1 titles as a canter, Lewis Hamilton currently trails Max Verstappen by eight points heading into the final double-header of 2021. Although Red Bull has been his biggest on-track challenge, Hamilton feels that he has just as much to grapple with away from the circuit

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2021
Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay Prime

Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay

OPINION: Quibbles over the length of time taken by Formula 1's stewards over decisions are entirely valid. But however inconvenient it is, there can be no questioning the importance of having clearly defined rules that everyone understands and can stick to. Recent events have shown that ambiguity could have big consequences

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021
The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax Prime

The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax

OPINION: Red Bull has had Formula 1’s fastest package for most of 2021, but in several of the title run-in events it has wasted the RB16B’s potential. It cannot afford to do so again with Lewis Hamilton motoring back towards Max Verstappen in the drivers’ standings with two rounds remaining

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021