Hamilton: Battle with Alonso “quite interesting” to learn the good and bad points of the W14

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16 years from sharing the podium at Albert Park in their first race together as teammates at McLaren, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso did the same once again at the Australian venue last Sunday.

Unlike that day in 2007 when Alonso pipped his debutant stablemate to P2, it was Hamilton who came out on top this time.

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As soon as Max Verstappen breezed past the Mercedes with DRS on lap 12, Hamilton’s focus for the rest of the day turned to Alonso.

Speaking post-race, the Mercedes driver felt the Aston Martin had a little bit more pace.

“I think Fernando’s a little bit quicker this afternoon,” said Hamilton.

“I mean, he was in my tow, so I think we were probably slightly quicker on the straight and he was quicker through all the corners. So I think we definitely have some performance to find. It definitely wasn’t easy keeping him at bay, and keeping them out of the DRS zone.”

Hamilton also believes that his team can take good learnings on their strengths and weaknesses from the race-long battle against his old rival.

“But it was really quite interesting, just to see where we were, where we were lacking, and where we were good. And so there’s lots of positives to take from today but we do naturally need to add on some performance.

“I mean, they’ve been ahead the past two races but for us to somehow still finish ahead is pretty awesome. So I’ll definitely take it.”

Photo credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team

Hamilton’s assessment of the pace between the two cars was something Alonso accepted.

[We were] probably [faster],” Alonso stated. “I think when you do 50 laps within two seconds of the car in front, it’s normally you have a little bit more.

“If you have a little bit of clean air, probably you can get two or three tenths out of that lap time.

“But in the other end, I could not get any closer than that. So, I think we were very similar.”

Photo credit: Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team

A red flag on lap 9 to clear gravel and dirt on the track meant everyone put on the hard tyre to try and get to the end of the race without stopping under green flag conditions in many cases.

It led to a game of cat and mouse as Alonso would try and save some tyre at certain stages, and he would then try to launch attacks on Hamilton at other points.

However, this did not work as Hamilton had enough pace to fend him off, despite his concerns about running out of tyres towards the end.

Hamilton admitted he was surprised at how much tyre performance there was left before the red flag.

“Yeah, I think I had a lot more tyre than I thought that I did at the end,” the seven-time world champion said. “There was a moment where I thought the tyre was opening up and Fernando was applying pressure, then backing off and I had decent pace and then closing the gap again.

“He had two or three charges which I had to then really up the ante and try to match him, which was tough. I was able to be around a tenth or so off him, or sometimes ahead.

“But definitely, with 18 laps to go, I was thinking ‘jeez, I don’t know if these tyres are going go all the way’. But then he had a moment where he backed off and I was able to save a bit and then got into a good rhythm and I was able to just keep that gap exactly the same for those last 10 laps or whatever. So was just counting it down, just hoping, hoping that it would just stick with it.

“And yeah, he was very, very consistent from what I could tell, didn’t make any mistakes. Fernando doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. So, it needed to be a good job.”

The Aston Martin had superior tyre life compared to Mercedes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but even Alonso admitted he was surprised at how good the hard tyre was still working before the second red flag.

“Yeah, similar comments,” said the two-time World Champion. “I think, at the beginning of the second race, let’s say, there were some doubts that the tyre could make that distance, because we missed FP2 long runs and everything.

“But I agree that at the end of the race, the tyres were better than expected. They could keep going.”

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