x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Lewis Hamilton paid a heavy price for being heavy on his tyres

'Look after your tyres and your tyres will look after you' should be the Lewis Hamilton, the McLaren-Mercedes driver's new mantra.

Lewis Hamilton was too aggressive on his tyres in the second half of the Malaysia Grand Prix, which saw him eventually finish eighth.
Lewis Hamilton was too aggressive on his tyres in the second half of the Malaysia Grand Prix, which saw him eventually finish eighth.

Lewis Hamilton and some other drivers in Sunday's Malaysia Grand Prix paid the penalty for being too aggressive on their tyres.

Whenever Hamilton, or the Ferrari drivers, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, made a stop, they would immediately start setting fast lap times and new personal bests.

But, judging by the results, it appears that proved to be a mistake. In Hamilton's case, he was struggling on his tyres toward the end of a stint and it hurt his result.

He was forced to make an extra stop and dropped down the order to seventh - which would later become eighth because he was judged by the stewards to have changed his racing line more than once while defending. He was also unlucky that Alonso clipped his rear wheel, damaging his car's floor.

Considering he had qualified second, to finish so far back was a massive disappointment, especially given that his McLaren-Mercedes teammate, Jenson Button, drove well to finish second and looked after his tyres much better.

Going back to my original point, it seems in hindsight that one of Hamilton's problems was that maybe he was asking too much of the Pirelli tyres too soon.

I am not too familiar with these new tyres, but judging from what I saw, it seemed odd that the 2008 world champion was not able to make the harder tyre last in the final stint when no one else had that problem with that compound, leading to him making a fourth change with less than five laps to go.

I am not saying that Hamilton, and to a lesser extent the Ferraris, should have backed off completely on new tyres when they came back out on the Sepang circuit.

It is more a case of being a little circumspect, maybe holding back by a couple of tenths a lap or so for two or three laps just to take a little pressure off the tyres as they begin their stint.

You lose a small amount of time, but gain that back and more by not having to make an additional tyre change.

The tyres are different to what I raced on, but the approach of a driver to using them should not have changed too much.

You learn how they feel as you drive, but you react to what you see in the cockpit, what the car is telling you, and equally what you see from your rivals.

This is a very new challenge for the teams and drivers this year, especially after last year when at almost every race you only needed the one tyre change to successfully complete the race distance.

It will take a while for everyone to work out what works and what doesn't, and that means there will be more strategy variations and mixed up race orders, which can only be a good thing.

Button, who has been well known for his ability to look after tyres thanks to his smooth style, did a much better job in that regard and it paid off in the second half of the race as he was able to pull away from his teammate thanks to his superior grip levels.

Sebastian Vettel also did a terrific job and he and the Red Bull Racing team were well worth their second win in a row, and they looked like they still had plenty in hand.

Vettel seemed comfortable with his tyre wear and, like Button, he made one less stop than his teammate, Mark Webber, who did very well to come back from a slow start to finish fourth.

Hamilton will have learnt a lot from Malaysia, but the problem is that some of that experience will not be much use in China next weekend.

You have different temperatures and a different track layout, which will create new tests for the tyres and the cars to face and it should set up another unpredictable race.

Johnny Herbert is a former F1 driver with three career victories. His column is written with the assistance of staff writer Graham Caygill.

sports@thenational.ae