• 2010 Season

Hamilton: Ferrari looks the fastest

ESPNF1 Staff
March 1, 2010 « Schumacher still as intense - Brawn | »
Although happy with his speed in pre-season testing Lewis Hamilton believes the Ferrari is currently fastest © Sutton Images
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With the new season just days away everyone is trying to guess who will have the fastest car at their disposal. Although both McLaren drivers feel positive about the season, like many other drivers they are playing down their car's rapid pace.

"I don't think we are in the strongest position," said Lewis Hamilton. "I think we are in a strong position, just like some other teams but it really is impossible to say who is the fastest. We were on a decent fuel load all day on Sunday, so I feel quite comfortable but we have to keep pushing. I am sure other people will come with updates for the first race, so we are doing all we can to find some more time."

There has been a lot of speculation about how the new tyre format will work with the heavier fuel loads required since the ban of refuelling, but Jenson Button agrees managing them will be the key to winning in Bahrain.

"We do have to look after the tyres a bit more, as last year we ran with at last half the fuel load. It's tough on the tyres, and you have to work them in the right manner. Getting it right is really a knife-edge, either they work or if you get them slightly out of the temperature range they can fall off the cliff. It's important to have a lot of information and work closely with Bridgestone as it will be key to a good race."

It won't just be maintaining the tyres during the race that will be crucial, the drivers will have more to concentrate on trying to adjust the front wing in order to optimise the setup of the car as the fuel load decreases.

"We didn't have the adjustable front wing for most of the winter, so it has been tricky doing long runs," Button explained. "The way the cars work now you really are adjusting the front wing a lot. Having it at the last test was great and we were adjusting it all the time, especially as the weight starts to drop away. The reliability of the front wing mechanism will be crucial."

Tyre strategy will be crucial to success this season © Sutton Images

There is also a lot of speculation as to how each team will handle their pit stop strategy, but Button is sure there will be some surprises. "I think we are going to get a lot of very unusual strategies in the race. The top teams will be similar, but you will have some teams trying to stop three or four laps before others so they can get out on the fresh tyres and get a jump on their rivals. We will also have some people, who are perhaps not that competitive, trying crazy strategies like pitting after two or three laps and then trying to make a set of tyres last till the end of the race. It will be exciting for the viewers but for us it's hard to know what we should do. We can just plan, look at every scenario, and hope you are ready when you have to make a change. It's going to be really dependant on what people are doing around us, and it will keep the engineers very busy. "

How do the two team-mates see the year's new regulations affecting the sport? "My driving style, I think, does work with the new regulations," said Button. "For me it is still such a different way of driving. It's like an endurance race where you really do have to look after the tyres at the start when you are on heavy fuel. If you damage the tyres on lap two or three you are screwed for the whole stint, so you have to be very gentle with the car. Sometimes it feels as if you are not pushing the car - but you can still get a good lap time out of it."

"I think it's going to be harder to keep the car on the track," said Hamilton. "It will be much easier to make mistakes with the tyres dropping off so fast and graining. In the pit stops this year it's not about who goes longest, it's about who stops before who to get past- I think it will give us some good racing."

Hamilton is look forward in particular to pitting his skills against one man - seven-time champion Michael Schumacher. "Michael is just a real legend, so I am just excited to be on the same track as him. I am sure at some stage we will have some good battles."

Button believes the huge changes for this season are just what the sport needed after the negative publicity it has faced recently. "Last year I was very excited as we had a car that we all knew was quick and capable of winning at the first race - this year I am more excited because of the competitiveness of the four top teams plus Sauber and Williams. It's great to have Michael back in the sport and I am looking forward to going head to head with him. There has been so much change for this season, and I think it's all positive for the sport. This year should be fantastic because of all the world champions in competitive cars and the new teams. Hopefully it will get more supporters and fans interested in the sport, I am personally very excited about the first race - I think it's going to be a very special season."

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were talking to ESPNF1 as part of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone in.