Lewis Hamilton addressed the media on Thursday in Singapore, and the hot topic on his lips was the Mercedes start procedures that have hindered races so far this season.
Last time out in Monza the slow getaway from pole position effectively handed victory to stable mate Nico Rosberg. Nico’s victory was his second in consecutive races, and closed Lewis’s lead in the championship down to 2 points.
Mercedes have struggled all year with their start procedures, ever since the FIA regulations changed stipulating that a single clutch paddle must be used. All drivers were also restricted from receiving feedback from their engineers on how to set the clutch up for the most effective starts. This change s caused Mercedes more pain than any other team in the pit lane.
Lewis has scored 7 pole positions this year, and from those 7 poles he has led into the first corner in first place on only 2 occasions. You could argue that that stat should read only once into the first corner, as the Silverstone race was started behind the pace car in wet conditions.
Referring to the problematic starts, Lewis admitted that they could yet impact his championship chances.
“It’s pretty hard to start the races — it has been the same for years — but it’s just more difficult now in terms of getting a consistent getaway,” he said. “You’re not allowed to have certain feedback you were allowed before — in terms of clutch temperatures — so you don’t have that. Sometimes you arrive and it gives you not enough torque, sometimes it gives you too much torque and you’re none the wiser — you don’t know if it’s going to give you more or less.”
“I don’t specifically like it or dislike it, it is what it is. But would I prefer my clutch not to have those inconsistencies? For sure I would, but that’s not going to change anytime soon. If you gauge my season, then the championship may be lost through bad starts, so I lost a lot of races I started from pole position right at the start. You do the work all through the weekend and then those two seconds have determined some of the races.”
Despite seeing his championship lead cut in the past two grand prix weekends, Lewis remains convinced that he has the raw pace to win the title out right.
“I still have a positive mind,” he said. “I was 43 points behind at one stage, so I feel pretty good still and we are still leading the championship despite all the engine penalties I’ve had and not the greatest start in the last race. But the speed is there and I’m still in the lead, so I feel pretty good still.”
Hopefully Mercedes have managed to get on top of their Marina Bay issues from last year, which saw the Mercs 1.5 seconds off the qualifying pace. If they have… their attention will be firmly fixed on maintaining position from the line.