Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin described how Lewis Hamilton compares to the driver he replaced at the team seven years ago – Michael Schumacher – now the pair share the record for most wins in F1 history.
Speaking after Hamilton had equalled Schumacher’s tally of 91 wins at the Nurburgring on Sunday, Shovlin said he suspects Hamilton’s rivals underestimate the effort he puts into sustaining his success.
“He works very hard,” said Shovlin. “He’s a driver that I think, perhaps, his rivals like to think is just fast in the car but doesn’t put the hours in. But he’s one of the hardest working drivers we’ve ever known.”
Shovlin said Hamilton’s continued evolution and “relentless” search for improvement with his race engineer Peter Bonnington and performance engineer Marcus Dudley are what has driven him to new successes over his career.
“It’s the more he can understand about the tyres, about how the car works, about how to use all the available tools – he’s able to take that and build it into his driving.
“It’s just in this relentless way: Every missed opportunity is something that needs fixing before the next race goes. He goes off and works with Bono and Marcus, his engineering crew and with the wider team trying to understand the issues.”
Even in his 14th season of Formula 1, Hamilton is still “constantly building his skillset”, said Shovlin. “So long into a career, you think drivers would sort of top out their skillset but Lewis keeps finding new and different things to do and how to get the most out of the car and the tyres.”
Shovlin worked with Michael Schumacher at Mercedes before the seven-times world champion retired and was replaced by Hamilton. Although Shovlin says “the two characters couldn’t be more different”, the pair share some key traits which set them apart from their rivals.
The first is an obsessive focus on pursuing every last hundredth of a second. “If you look at how they drive, when Michael arrived in our team, the things that stood out about him were the way he would always go after the marginal gains. It doesn’t matter if it’s one hundredth of a second, he’d try and do it and he’d collect those up.”
The drivers’ adaptability also set them apart from others, said Shovlin. “Michael also had an ability to drive whatever balance was quickest; if it was an understeering car that you needed, he’d to do it, if you needed to move the work onto the front tyres, he could so he was very, very adaptable in his driving style.”
“Those are certainly two characteristics that Lewis very much has,” he added. “A lot of the good drivers don’t have a particular style, it’s just whatever’s quick, they’ll adapt to do it.”
Schumacher and Hamilton were also able to apply whatever engineering advice they were given, no matter how complex the instructions.
“[With] Michael, it doesn’t matter how many things you told him to do on a lap, whether it was moving the brake bias, where to look after tyres, what he needed to do to get them in the right window, he’d be able to sort of put them all together.
“And again, that’s one that Lewis does – quite quietly, often – you don’t need loads but you can just keep layering one thing on top of another and he doesn’t forget it. He just does it and then if you give him more things to do, he adds that on top.
“So I think just in terms of that way they are in the car, they’re actually more similar than you might believe. It’s just that out of the car they’re two quite different people.”
2020 Eifel Grand Prix
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