Lewis Hamilton’s former race engineer has described the “Eureka moment” that enabled the now seven-time World Champion to lift his career towards the pinnacle.
And remarkably, it came in the only Formula 1 race won by Pastor Maldonado!
Mark Temple was Hamilton’s race engineer at McLaren and he believes that race at the Circuit de Catalunya, in which the Briton finished eighth, was a major turning point. It was the year after Pirelli had become Formula 1’s sole tyre supplier.
“In 2011, Pirelli came along and that kind of changed the face of how you had to drive in the race,” explained Temple on the F1 Nation podcast.
“The idea that you had to drive slower to go fast was quite alien to Lewis. It was a difficult year for him outside of that particular thing – there was a lot going on in his life – but that was a thing that really challenged him more than anything else at that point.
“Particularly as his team-mate was Jenson [Button], who was the master of going fast while driving slow. And that kind of unsettled him a little bit, but then…the point where I remember him just having that Eureka moment was in Barcelona.
“So 2011 was resisting that need to drive slower to look after the tyres in a particular way but in 2012, Barcelona, [after] that fantastic pole position, we got sent to the back of the grid because of a fuelling error in qualifying.
“The only way to get past in Barcelona – you can’t overtake – is to outdrive everyone else using tyre management and that was like a sort of ‘switch-on’ point…and he put his focus into it and turned it around, and from that race onwards through the rest of that year and his career, he’s really understood the importance of that.”
Having started at the back of a 24-car field, Hamilton worked his way up to finish eighth, one position ahead of his team-mate Button who had been 10th on the grid.
“In a way, that characterises Lewis – he’s at his best when he’s on the back foot,” added Temple, who is now McLaren’s principal car performance engineer.
“If he’s had a bad Friday then the team-mate’s got to be worried about Saturday. If he has a bad Saturday, the team mate’s got to be worried about Sunday, because getting on the back foot would just…there would be a little bit of stress, frustration, venting on the radio.
“But get that out of his system, get his game on and the next stage is that he comes out and smashes it.”