Former Mercedes aerodynamicist Philipp Brandle observes that Michael Schumacher had better technical knowledge than Sir Lewis Hamilton, but affirms that the Briton is better than most at having an instinctive feel for the car.
Mercedes have struggled in the early going of 2022 since the turn of the new technical regulations which have seen the cars switch to ground effect aerodynamics.
The result of the lower ride height has been a lot more abrasion with the track surface and, consequently, a lot of uncomfortable bouncing for Hamilton and team-mate George Russell to deal with.
The 24-year-old appears to have handled that slightly better than his compatriot, and has out-raced him in all of the last six races while leading the qualifying battle 4-3.
The seven-time champion has not stood on the podium since the opening round of the season in Bahrain, and crossed the finish line without scoring points for the first time since 2013 in Imola, epitomising his tough start to the year.
Schumacher scored points on 31 occasions in the three years he spent with Mercedes after coming out of retirement in 2010, and Brandle has been able to distinguish key elements of the German’s approach compared to Hamilton’s.
He notes that, while Schumacher was always meticulous in the setup of the car, the 37-year-old is more about feel, so he needs to feel at one with the W13.
“Lewis needs to have confidence in the car, which is very important to him,” he said.
“He’s not like Schumacher and doesn’t have the technical background. But he can feel the car particularly well.”
Despite Hamilton’s 75-point deficit in the championship to Max Verstappen, Brandle is certain that, given the 103-time race winner’s recovery last season, he can still make a fist of it this year.
“And let me remind you: Hamilton was 32 points behind the championship leader last year, and yet he fought his way back to the top,” said the former Mercedes engineer.
Despite the technical advantage Schumacher seemed to have, Brandle also noted last year that Hamilton always looked out for ways he could improve his and the car’s performance.
“He takes a close look at everything. There was a time in the cooldown room when he noticed a driver in a racing suit had fewer cables [attached]. The point was that you could save weight because every detail counts,” he explained.
In Monaco last weekend, Hamilton spent most of the afternoon stuck behind the Alpine of Fernando Alonso, and came home to finish eighth, with George Russell up ahead in fifth.
Sergio Perez won the race for Red Bull ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and team-mate Max Verstappen, putting the Austrian outfit over 100 points clear of the Silver Arrows in the Constructors’ Championship.