Lewis Hamilton over the years has developed a kit back of physiological tricks which he deploys to gain him the edge in certain situations. He famously saw off the current F1 double world champion Fernando Alonso from McLaren in his rookie year and was responsible in part for creating “angry Fernando.”
Hamilton also was involved in a titanic battle of the minds with team mate Jenson Button famously tweeting the McLaren telemetry following Button’s pole position in Belgium.
Rosberg learned the poker mindset
Then came Nico Rosberg and the pair for three years battled to better the other to win the drivers’ world championship between 2014 and 2016.
Of course Rosberg learned the ways of the expert mind games poker player and in 2016 managed to beat Lewis at his own game.
Now Mercedes development driver Esteban Gutierrez has revealed more of Lewis “physiological tricks” claiming his infamous team radio complaints about the tyres are designed to “maximise his situation” on track.
At the Mexican Grand Prix, Lewis was in full voice raising concerns over the medium tyre the team had selected for him following the red flag which stopped the race. With almost half distance to go, the Mercedes rivals had all settled on the hard tyre to get them to the chequered flag.
Hamilton tyre complaints a regular feature
TV commentators questioned the wisdom of this call from Mercedes, but given Hamilton was third at the restart he needed a contra strategy to Ferrari and Red Bull were he to have any chance of making more places or the win.
Whilst it took several laps for Hamilton to over overtake Leclerc, he finally made the move as the Ferrari struggled to heat up the hardest Pirelli compound. Lewis then set about chasing down Verstappen, yet the world champion responded and Hamilton later admitted he gave up the chase after 5 or 6 laps.
However, Lewis was concerned that having to following the Ferrari so closely and then push to chase down Max had used up too much of his tyre life and he questioned whether the tyres would get him to the end of the race.
The protests over team radio led a number of commentators to suggests he may be on the verge of a crisis, yet it never materialised and Hamilton even pulled out the fastest lap of the race on rubber which was 42 laps old.
Gutierrez reveals Hamilton’s “physcological trick”
Lewis claimed his first podium since Singapore following his disqualification a week earlier from the US Grand Prix and was comfortably ahead of his Ferrari competition.
Ferrari once again banked on the hard tyre for their final stint but again it proved the red cars just don’t go well on the harder tyre compound.
Esteban Gutierrez now explains Hamilton’s complaints over the team radio over tyres is a “physiological trick” used by the former F1 world champion.
Speaking to the F1 Nation podcast he said: “Lewis is very strong in that kind of situation. I think he says some things to let it out of his system, it’s not necessarily meaning that’s what he believes, he’s just getting that out of his system.
Hamilton admits bluffs are risky
“If I was in this position, it’s like a psychological process to try to increase or maximise your situation. And he’s done that a couple of times in his career where sometimes he makes an indication and then he does totally the opposite. And he’s like mega and doing the fastest laps and incredible stints and I think today was a good example of that.”
Whilst this may benefit Lewis own positive thinking it also sends messages to other teams who may incorrectly analyse Hamilton’s current tyre wear and make false pit stops.
Of course at times Lewis does seem at odds with his own team and has admitted these kind of bluffs can become counter productive. “Sometimes, the worst thing if you bluff your own teams. So you’ve got to be careful,” he said in an interview with CrowdStrike’s YouTube channel.
“In the past, there have been times where it’s worked in benefit but it’s a very, very, very fine line. The other teams are listening to what you’re saying, so everyone is listening out to who’s pitting when.”
Mercedes nowhere in their catchup up to Red Bull
Hamilton is currently deploying another “physiological” tactic and it has been notable the shift in his Coll down lap messages for the team. Earlier this year they contained a tone of admonishment as Lewis urged the team to do better.
More recently he has been congratulating them for their efforts and seeing the message ‘we need a final push – we’re almost there guys.’
Of course any analyst worth their salt will reveal that Mercedes may have a more drivable car and be more consistent than their infield competition., but in reality the 14 second gap to Verstappen over just half the race distance in Mexico suggests Mercedes still have more than a mountain to climb.
Whether Lewis will revert to handing out admonishment rather than encouragement if the W125 rolls out in Bahrain 2024 and is proven to be no match for Adrian Newey’s latest genius design.