Mercedes technical chief James Allison says Lewis Hamilton “doesn’t have off-days” – and that has enabled the team to raise the bar so high.
Hamilton and Mercedes both now have seven World Championship titles in the bag, although not all of them together. The 35-year-old Briton won his first one with McLaren in 2008 and lost out to Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in 2016, although he did help the team to constructors’ glory that year.
Allison, the Mercedes technical director, believes the consistency of Hamilton’s top-level performances means the team know exactly how they need to improve on the rare occasions when standards are not met.
“Lewis has been metronomic,” Allison told the At The Controls podcast. “If you try to think of Lewis Hamilton errors in any given season, you’ll struggle to find more than one a year. He has been at this extraordinary level of perfection for year after year after year.
“It puts me very much in mind of Michael Schumacher at his pomp. Lewis is properly integrated into this team in the same way Michael was back in the Ferrari days and he gives us a weapon that we know if we do a car that is reliable and decently quick, we absolutely know he will get the job done for us.
“We also know if our car isn’t quick enough, it’s not because he’s having an off-day. He doesn’t have off-days. It’s because we screwed up. That’s an incredibly useful benchmark to measure ourselves against and keep pushing us to higher and higher standards.”
Allison also believes Mercedes have the right blend of drivers in Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas who both, first and foremost, serve in the best interests of the team rather than their own individual gain.
“We are very lucky with our pairing of Lewis and Valtteri that although they are both red-blooded carnivore types, they have a degree of respect which is unusually high for an F1 driver,” said the 52-year-old former Ferrari technical director.
“I’ve got plenty of examples of where both of them could have behaved badly but chose to do the right thing because they see the longer-term benefit to them of acting in the right way for the team.
“I think they are both particularly mature in that way and it’s been hugely to our benefit as a constructor to have these two guys prepared to work with each other in a respectful way.
“And we don’t take it for granted because if we did, their willingness to do that would dry up fairly quickly. We try to make it very clear, when we’ve seen a behaviour of that type, how much we appreciate it and try to show them it’s a really valuable and valued thing.
“I can think of several other driver pairings I’ve had where it hasn’t been anything like as comfortable.”
Asked how he dealt with that situation, Allison replied: “It can get to a point where it’s not very recoverable and you have to change the line-up because that particular pairing is just not a happy combination.
“It can really suck the life out of the team – so much of the energy is devoted to managing the psychodrama between the two sides of the garage and it becomes very draining.”