Heikki Kovalainen gave a revealing assessment of his performance in the British Grand Prix:
I just struggled with my rear tyres all the way through the race, to be honest. They were going away and I was damaging them excessively. The car control became difficult and I had to slow down. This was the reason I couldn’t keep up. I think it’s a bit of both. It looks like in the low grip conditions I put more load on the tyres. We saw that a little bit in Canada, where I had more tyre wear compared to Lewis again. In the rain when the grip is lower I put a little more load on the rear tyres. It’s probably something I need to look.
What I thought was particularly interesting about this is we have often thought Hamilton the hardest driver on his tyres ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ but here Kovalainen is saying he had more of a problem with it this weekend.
At Istanbul Hamilton was generating so much energy in his front-right tyre at the long, punishing turn eight, that Bridgestone forbade him from running an optimum two-stop strategy. He instead made three stops for tyres, to avoid a repeat of the catastrophic deflation he suffered last year.
Other famous occasions have provided examples of how destructive to his tyres Hamilton can be: wearing his intermediate tyres out in Shanghai last year, and the disastrous switch to a three-stop pit strategy at Interlagos that contributed to him losing the championship.
So what has changed? It?óÔé¼Ôäós difficult to say but, thanks to Kovalainen (as Ollie reminds us, such insight does not always come flowing out of McLaren), we at least have an idea what?óÔé¼Ôäós going on.
Perhaps Hamilton has found something his in car set-up. Perhaps Kovalainen just had a one-off bad day. Perhaps he’s lying and trying to throw the opposition off the scent.
But if McLaren have now unlocked the secret of going very quickly without shredding their tyres, they may be in better shape for the second half of the season than I thought when I pessimistically assessed Hamilton?óÔé¼Ôäós chances of winning the title.