Lewis Hamilton fears the dreadful starts which have blighted his last three races will get even worse when rule changes come into force at the next round in Belgium.
Formula One will introduce a clampdown on the complicated start procedure for next month’s Belgian Grand Prix in an attempt to make the drivers “solely responsible” for how they get off the line.
Hamilton was on the back foot in Budapest on Sunday after another poor start, eventually salvaging sixth after an error-strewn display. In Austria last month he lost the lead to team-mate Nico Rosbergafter starting in pole position, and in the British Grand Prix earlier this month he was third by turn one behind both Williams cars.
Toto Wolff, the Mercedes head of motorsport, labelled his team’s poor starts “unacceptable”, but Hamilton admitted he could not see much changing by the time F1 meets again in Spa-Francorchamps after the summer break for the Belgian Grand Prix on Aug 23.
World Champion Lewis Hamilton fears unpredictable starts following new rules being introduced next month. Picture/AP.
“I imagine the starts in Spa will be a lot like this,” the world champion said.
“It would have been a different race if I had a good start. But how I reacted was not the correct way. I expect more unpredictable starts. I imagine it is going to get worse. It’s not dangerous, it’s racing.”
Wolff said the team had already been practising the new procedure, which may have compromised their performance in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, a topsy-turvy race won by Sebastian Vettel.
The Austrian added: “Probably we’ve traded the future for the present. You should live in your time - we’ve probably experienced that on Sunday.”
The changes to the rules for Belgium were agreed at a meeting of F1‘s Strategy Group this month.Executives want to put the drivers centre stage again and remove as many driving aids as possible.
There will be two major differences to the start procedure. The first is that the clutch bite point - currently adjusted by the engineers on the formation lap to take intoaccount changes in temperature, and so on - will be fixed and cannot be altered from the moment the cars leave the pit lane on race day.
The second is that the pit wall will be banned from communicating information to the drivers about how to optimise the start, other than warning of a “critical” failure with their or a competitor’s car, or some other danger on the circuit.
It is expected that the significant crackdown on driver aids will increase unpredictability at the start, improving the racing amid struggling television audiences and race attendances. That is a worry for Hamilton and Mercedes, who have struggled off the line of late.
Despite what he admitted was his worst drive in seven years, in Budapest, Hamilton extended his championship lead to 21 points after Rosberg finished only eighth.
Rosberg denied that he had been focusing too much on Hamilton,allowing the Ferraris of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to scamper clear in the first part of the race.
“There is no danger,” the German said. “We are always aware of our opponents but naturally we are both fighting for the race win, so the focus is a bit on Lewis. But our car is still awesome. We don’tunderstand what happened. We will be quick in Spa.”
Hamilton was at a loss to explain his poor performance, other than a sleepless night before the race. However, he took encouragement from the way he rallied through the field in the closing laps.
“In the past I might have gone crazy and it wouldn’t be as strong a race,” he said.
“But I drove the arse off the car. I was over-steering and gunning it to the point where I nearly went off a couple of times, driving way beyond the limit.”
Mercedes’ worst race in two seasons allowed some unexpectedly strong finishes for the rest. Red Bull scored a double podium, their first of the year, while McLaren finished fifth and eighth, which is unheard of territory for 2015.
“Fifth is unbelievable, a little impressive for us because in this moment we are not super competitive,” Fernando Alonso said.
Jenson Button added: “For the team it’s great to get points, but we are also realistic and we understand what was going on in a crazy race.”