Lewis Hamilton is concerned he will drop more points to Sebastian Vettel at upcoming races if he and Mercedes cannot find a solution to his recent tyre struggles.
Hamilton scored his worst result of the year at the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday after qualifying 13th and finishing seventh. His problems stemmed from a struggle to keep all four tyres in the right temperature window, especially in qualifying where he was visibly lacking rear-end grip.
Although the Monaco layout is unlike any other circuit on the Formula One calendar, it does hold some similarities with the upcoming races in Canada and Azerbaijan. All three tracks are made up of relatively low-energy, short-duration corners and all three feature a smooth track surface. Such characteristics are not conducive with building up bulk tyre temperature and if Hamilton struggled in Monaco, there's a chance he will also struggle at the next two rounds.
"Coming here [to Monaco], I was thinking we would have some seriously strong races coming up with tracks I am generally strong at, but this issue with the tyres is a bit of an unknown and we're going to the next race with the same tyre [compounds]," Hamilton said. "It's only the ultra-soft that's been an issue, so that's really what I have got to try and understand with the team this week.
"There's so many different things we have got to look into to try and understand why one car could make it work and the other couldn't. Whether it's multiple laps, whether it's backing off, utilising the fronts more than the rears, whether it's making a more understeery car, an oversteery car, all these different things, brake balance, all these different things, need to start looking into. I will definitely look further into it."
Why is the Mercedes such a handful?
Teammate Valtteri Bottas also reported similar issues but, with an identical setup to Hamilton, was able to extract more performance from the tyres and qualified just 0.054s off pole position. He explained that the problem stemmed from a lack of traction, which in turn made it difficult to get temperature in the front tyres and easy to overheat the surface of the rears.
"We are struggling to get the car nicely balanced, especially here in the very slow corners," he said. "We are struggling with rear stability and when the rear is not stable, you're not putting energy through to the front tyres either, because the fronts are not -- they're not sliding at all.
"But when the rears are stable the front are understeering a bit and that puts more temperature on the front tyres. When you can carry more speed through the corners you just gain energy and temperature in the tyres.
"For some reason Ferrari always seems to have both axles working, while for us they're not really coming together, they're never at the same time in the correct window and they're doing a better job at that, at the moment."
'We are going to work very, very hard'
Hamilton has won five of the last ten Canadian Grands Prix, but says understanding the ultra-soft compound will be the key to adding to that record this year.
"It's definitely going to be a difficult one. As soon as we get on top of that ultra-soft then I think that it puts us in a much better position to attack with an undercut and that's what we really need. Montreal has been a great hunting ground for me in the past and I plan for it to continue. We are going to work very, very hard in the next two weeks to make sure the car is in a place to make sure we are ahead of those Ferraris."