Lewis Hamilton says he used his drive to victory in the Spanish GP as a “test bench” as he found his Mercedes to his liking for the first time since Australia, and wanted to fully explore its potential.
Hamilton said he hit the set-up sweet spot in a dominant performance in Barcelona, and with his lead secure he focussed on making mental notes about what to tell his engineers.
“I think today has really been a rejuvenating experience,” he said. “People probably think it was an easy race and that I was cruising. I wasn’t.
“I was comfortable, and at no point did I feel I was going to lose it, but I was pushing every single lap, using it as test bench to understand what I liked about the balance, how can I play with it a bit more, can I squeeze any more out of it, and then just understand what I’ve got to get more from.
“So when you do the debrief you can be very particular, and to the point, on what you want them to work on.
“In that meeting there were a few key points which I pointed out, like ‘work on this, make that better, and I’ll be faster.’
“The cool thing about being a world champion is that the team listens, naturally, to what you say, because you’re not talking gibberish.
“They go away and focus on those areas, look at the data, try to work on it, and it’s an amazing process you do together. Then it comes back and it works.
“Of course they knew it would do because you said it was going to work, but they’ll go away and do their expertise, come back and improve a certain area of the car, however long it’s going to take, and we’ll start to see the benefits.”
Hamilton admitted that he hadn’t been fully confident in the car in races since Australia, where he lost victory when jumped by Sebastian Vettel, as Ferrari pitted him under a virtual safety car.
“In Melbourne I was really comfortable in the car, with the balance,”he reflected. “And since then I just didn’t have the confidence to attack, to lean on the car, to have the rear particularly where I wanted it.
“For whatever reason I still didn’t have that yesterday [Saturday]. It was a very nervous, snappy car throughout qualifying. But it was better than it had been in the past, but still not great.
“And then today [I] just happened to get the right wing setting for example for the race, and the car was a little bit nicer to drive. It was a little bit more of a normal balance.
“I was feeling comfortable and I want to push this car to the limits, I want to see how far I can push it, how far I can push myself, how consistent can I be, can I beat that time, can I improve, can I improve, can I improve, and that was mindset the whole race. It wasn’t until Turn 12 on the last lap that I backed off – I had traffic so that’s why I backed off.”
He added that the win was a big boost after some difficult weekends in the first part of the season.
“It’s the greatest feeling to come here and have that kind of performance and have a convincing win,” he said. “Anybody who has a win wants to do it that way. And it’s definitely a great, great feeling. I think you could probably see by my energy when I got out of the car.
“Not every win feels as a great as that one does. To think that was my 64th, but it still feels like a first, it still feels special, it still feels unique.”