Lewis Hamilton: How big is his disadvantage at the start in Sochi?

(Motorsport-Total.com) – Lewis Hamilton is in pole position at the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi (Formula 1 2020 from 12:45 p.m. live in the ticker!), As the favorite to win – it would be 91st. his career – the Mercedes driver doesn’t see himself because of that. Because both his tire choice for the first stint and the starting position could turn out to be a disadvantage for him in the race.

Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc

For Charles Leclerc, Pole in Sochi in 2019 was not an advantage

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“I start on the soft, which is not good,” explains Hamilton. “And it’s nice to be on pole – but the track here is probably the worst for the pole […]. I’ll probably be overtaken at the start, and then the two cars I’m racing against are still on the medium. That makes it difficult to win the race. “

Hamilton actually wanted to set his best time in Q2 just like Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas in the Medium-Pirelli. But because his first time was canceled and he had to stop the second lap a few seconds before the finish line because of Sebastian Vettel’s accident, he is now reluctantly starting the Grand Prix on the soft.

And the fact that the Pole in Sochi is not the best starting position to be in the lead after the first corner is proven by looking back at 2019. At that time, Charles Leclerc was right at the front, but knowing that at least one opponent was leaning behind him and overtake him, it was agreed at Ferrari that this should at least be the team-mate.

2019: Leclerc was unable to defend Pole

Vettel actually took the lead out of Leclerc’s slipstream. It was actually agreed that the positions would be swapped again afterwards – but that only led to discussions within the team on the pit radio. Vettel left later anyway. A failed arrangement from which Mercedes could possibly learn something for today’s race.

For Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff it is “completely unclear” who will lead the race after the start: “It all depends on where you position yourself after turn 2. We have to wait and see,” he says with regard to the racing strategy. “From P3, Valtteri has already proven in the past that he can lead to Turn 2.”


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For Hamilton, in view of the long full throttle to the first braking point, it is clear: “The slipstream is stronger with these cars than in other years. I assume that at least one of the two will fly past me. But I can only rely on mine anyway Focus on racing and go as fast as you can. “

Paradox: The soft tire, which is considered a disadvantage because of a possibly shorter first stint, could possibly even be an advantage in the crucial first meters. “It’s a good tire for the actual start,” said Hamilton, referring to the plus in grip. But: “It then degrades ten times faster than any other tire.”

“I don’t know if that will force me to use a two-stop strategy. Unlikely, because you lose so much time here in the pit stop. So I have to protect the tires as much as possible. If the guys get past the start, they will pull away I think about the best way to do the rest of the race. “

Wolff knows that the soft “will certainly suffer after a few laps. It’s not the optimal strategy. That can affect the whole race because you might end up in traffic after the first pit stop. That wouldn’t be great.” On the other hand, he emphasizes: “Lewis is the best overtaker in the field. And he was the fastest in qualifying.”

Permane: Soft easily manages 15 or 20 rounds

Especially since other drivers do not see the difference between soft and medium as closely as the eternal pessimists from Mercedes: “15, maybe 20 laps” could also easily be done by soft, predicts Renault sporting director Alan Permane. And that’s enough in a 53-lap race to get away with a pit stop.

“It’s not as bad as it has been here in years past. I remember when we had the thicker treads, the C4 was a disaster once,” says Permane. “It’s pretty good for a soft. We’re not worried. On Friday, we did some relatively long long runs with it, and on Saturday we saw that some people did two fast laps.”

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner also puts the alleged pole disadvantage into perspective: “If Lewis got off to a good start and gave us a nice slipstream, we would certainly not complain. But we saw in the Formula 2 race that he did Pole setter has also led into Turn 1. With a good start, that’s already possible. “

Especially since Hamilton should have more grip in the first few meters not only because of the soft tires, but also because the odd starting positions on the clean line have an advantage: “It’s pretty dirty next to the ideal line,” said Carlos Sainz (6th). noticed. “Lots of stones, dust, not an ideal starting point.”

Bottas, actually a Sochi specialist, definitely sees an opportunity: “I started here in third place and I still remember how it turned out back then,” he remembers in 2017, when he held his first Grand Prix in Russia. Has celebrated Prix victory. “I certainly have an advantage with the medium in the first stint. Everything is still possible.”

Verstappen on P2 is more cautious: “I’m on the dirtier side. I can’t say exactly how much that will affect. But the Mercedes are simply faster at racing speed. Nevertheless, I will of course try to keep up with them as long as possible to make life as difficult as possible. “

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