Analysis: Hamilton DRS issue shows details could decide F1 2017 title

With so little to choose speed wise between Mercedes and Ferrari in the fight for Formula 1 honours this season, both sides are facing up to the reality that the battle will most likely be decided by the tiniest of details.

In fact, Lewis Hamilton believes that a small DRS issue in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix – where it failed to engage on the back straight and cost him valuable tenths – shows that just one small thing going wrong can now be the difference between success and defeat.

For without that time lost, Hamilton could have been on pole position in Bahrain, and that may have been enough to keep him clear of Sebastian Vettel at the start and produce a totally different outcome to the race.

It was the way that the Bahrain weekend turned on something so simple that was behind Hamilton not brushing off losing to Ferrari as well as he did after the Australian Grand Prix – when it was time lost behind Max Verstappen after the first stops that ultimately cost him.

“If anyone ever thinks that a driver, or I, should feel happy with second… you know, I don’t know what to say. That’s not why we exist,” said Hamilton in the wake of his Bahrain performance.

“Of course we’ve had the second before… when you have a strong, good fight, it’s a good feeling. So I feel good if I get on the podium, but then you think about, there’s certain things – you know – that happened.

“I lost two tenths from Turn 10 to 11, the DRS didn’t engage in qualifying. I lost half a tenth out of the last corner, so should have easily been on pole.

“Then I lost position at the start, solely my fault. Then you’ve got the time lost in the pitlane… and you practice and practice and practice and practice and practice… and you only have 20 opportunities this year.

“So when you f*** up, man, it’s painful, there’s no other way of saying it. When you guys mess up in your job, I don’t know how you feel about it, but particularly when it has big consequences potentially, I’m sure you feel gutted as well. And I try to handle it the best way I can.

“But it eats you up a little bit inside and you just got to end up trying to… cope and move forward.”

Hamilton is well aware that the defeats in Australia and Bahrain owed much to the increased tyre use that Mercedes has compared to Ferrari.

However, he still feels that the potential in there in the package that if everything does go right then Ferrari can still be beaten.

He added: “In Australia, I don’t remember it being particularly any, necessarily, massive fault of my own, in the sense that I’d run out of tyres and had to pit, it was just the circumstances I was faced with.

“But [in Bahrain] there was certain things, if they were perfect, I would’ve been in a much better position to fight for the win. And I didn’t put myself in that position.”

With the performance between Ferrari and Mercedes so close, Hamilton is aware that any gaps that open up in races are unlikely to be closed down, as fightbacks will not be possible.

That is why slips up like Bahrain – especially when they mount on top of each other – are more costly in the current situation.

But he says that such a scenario is not a bad thing.

“It’s a small percentage, which is what racing should be all about,” explained the Mercedes driver. “We want to be operating in the top end and not doing a good enough percent by one percent and losing the race. But I think that’s what’s going to be about this year.

“I think that’s exciting and that means that all of us in the team need to be operating at the maximum level weekend in, weekend out. If you look at 20 races from last year, five or maybe more, I don’t know, weren’t perfect, but then others were awesome.

“Every year my goal is to increase the number of the awesome races, so minimise how many dips you have. I think the first race was still a high, second record still a high and this one a bit of a dip, so I’ll try to bring it back up in the next one.”