Analysis: Hamilton losing time to Rosberg in braking – Montreal to be acid test
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Jun 2013   |  1:56 pm GMT  |  64 comments

Lewis Hamilton has never been outqualified by a team mate four races in succession. Here in Montreal, arguably his most successful track, where he has won three times, he knows he has to regain the upper hand over Nico Rosberg, author of pole at the last three events.

And it is going to be in the braking that he will do it. Montreal is all about the brakes. And a lot of Hamilton’s speed has always come from his ability on the brakes.

“The braking has been a bit of a killer for me this year,” Hamilton admits in his BBC Sport website column today. “It’s harder to get temperature into the tyres with this car than I’ve experienced in the past. My qualifying laps haven’t been that bad, but I don’t think my tyres have ever been ready in the first quarter of the lap this year and a lot of time goes in that first part of the lap.

“Braking is important because it is where everyone gains all the time. I’ve always been the latest of the late brakers, but you also have to modulate the brakes through the corner to control the car.

“If you don’t have the feel you need in that control zone, then you don’t have the confidence to attack the braking zones because you’re worried about locking the wheels or the stopping power. And if you damage these tyres, they don’t come back.

“I’ve been working in the simulator, using different techniques. There are a lot you can use: for example, lift and coast in a race situation, so instead of braking at 100m, you lift at 120m and brake at 80m; or later downshifts.

“How you slide the car, how you progress the throttle, how you brake, all these things can change how the tyres work. My team-mate Nico Rosberg seems to be very good at quite a few of those. He is no pushover. He is doing a fantastic job and I have to do better.

“Because of this I’m braking earlier than I would be otherwise, so that’s where I’m losing all my time. Even so, I’m still there in the mix. There is a lot of time lost on the brakes – in Monaco I lost 0.3 seconds in the first sector just on brakes and I only qualified 0.1secs off the pace.”


So here is JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan’s analysis of what is actually going on with Hamilton, Rosberg and the brakes.

“It’s an interesting topic; drivers are very sensitive to the the feel and modulation of the brake pedal and if they don’t have confidence in the system they can lose confidence as drivers.

“You tend to find that a driver gets used to a master cylinder, pads, calipers and set up and some teams have exclusive deals, for example McLaren. Other teams don’t have access to those materials due to the other teams’ exclusive deals.

Lewis Hamilton will have got used to a brake set up at McLaren and probably hasn’t experienced Brembo products, which is what the Mercedes is opetimised around. Now he has gone back to using Carbon Industrie materials, while Rosberg continues with Brembo

“As an aerodynamicist it’s not ideal to be trying to optimise a car around two different brake set ups. The brake ducts have different requirements and to have to split the effort between two different brake manufacturers is a pain and is not good for thermal management, which is such a big part of the game with these Pirelli tyres.

“The vent patterns through the discs are there to keep the disc in the ideal operating window so you don’t get excess wear on the discs and pads. There is a lot of detail in those vent patterns and the rest of the geometry, the brake ducts and so on are designed around them. If the drivers use two different vent patterns and discs then what is happening in Hamilton’s car will not be the same as Rosberg’s.

“Remember that the brake heat is used to generate temperature in the Pirelli tyres, which are very temperature sensitive. It might only be a difference of two or three degrees, but that’s enough to mean that Hamilton drops a tenth of a second in the first sector to Rosberg, if he’s driving the car which is optimised around the Brembo brakes.

“We are dealing with very fine margins here.

“Maybe Rosberg is getting better temperature into his tyres because the system is better, maybe it’s because his own techniques. Only Mercedes would know.

“But I would hazard a guess that Hamilton is trying to get better feel and confidence in the pedal and so has gone back to Carbon Industrie material and maybe the system isn’t yet optimised around his geometry yet.”

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Excellent article. It seems from Kimi’s comment that tyre temperature is more important than anything else. I read that braking can provide heat to the tyre. May be one day we’ll have electrical heating in the car to optimize tyre temperature for every lap in the race. But a better solution is not to have tyre like the current batch from P which is a hit or miss for teams to get the temperature right.


So happy for Williams, and so happy to see that Lewis out-qualified Nico, finally. LH never been out-qualified 4x in a row by teammate, whew!


How would you judge a driver in a new team just after five races of a 19 race season? Nico is a very good driver and we all know that, but is he better than Lewis, NO!


For me Hamilton is fast but only when things are right with the car. He reminds me of Prost in that regard if he had a perfect car he was unbeatable ( Senna’s words not mine) but he struggled to adapt to a less than perfect car. Alonso reminds me of Senna in that regard in that he’ll find a way of being fast regardless of the car.


…and one last thought I also think Rosberg is underrated. I’m sure the name helped open doors in the lower formulas but I suspect that now he’s in F1 people think he’s there because of who he is not what he can do.

All revved-up

It took Kimi one year to settle into the Lotus and dominate Grosjean. Let’s give Hamilton one year at Mercedes to see his true speed.

That said, I personally feel Rosberg has been underrated.


Really? Then how come Raikkonen finished his first season at Lotus with 207 points and third in the drivers’ standings, while Grosjean had 96 points and 8th in the standings?

All revved-up

Sorry should have clarified that I meant qualifying performance. Kimi’s dominating Grosjean this year; compared to 2012.

I read this thread as a discussion about Hamilton’s qualifying speed vis Rosberg.


Great article which informs a little more if the complexities of racing thanks James.

I don’t think it will be long before Lewis is improving the feeling to a point he had with Mclaren. But it’s unwise for people to isolate only this issue because its the whole package that a driver has to be comfortable with and it maybe another way that Lewis engineers can circumvent this hearing up of the tyres through suspension set-up.

Nico has certainly improved as a driver this year- it seems he’s hitting his sweet spot now. But the margins are so small in F1 that as soon as another driver settles into the team the few tenths diff evaporates very quickly -people need to remember this.


P.S. I think at Montreal Lewis will out qualify and out race Nico. But like I said on the other day -watch Fernando in damp conditions. Just hope it’s a tad warmer so Kimi can get heat into those fronts because he looks good too. (Bit like how Melb was)

Adrian Newey Jnr

James touched on the biggest issue. Confidence. Irrespective of the aero benefit/deficit, in Lewis’s mind, having his McLaren set up (or one similar to it) will help his confidence. Just look at the difference in Massa’s performance this year to see the effect! Has nothing to do with tyres…..

lol censorship

And of course my perfectly legitimate post gets not approved.

Keep proving my point then, eh?


The reason it was not approved is that you have a made up email address. We don’t accept comments from those


Lewis seemed to be doing ok today during P2, being only 0.012s slower than Fernando’s fastest time, and being 0.419s faster than Nico.


I guess it’s better to be ahead than behind, but it’s practice. If you can figure out something that will have a long-term benefit, then the times you set in that session don’t matter.

Their long run pace looked pretty bad, though I didn’t see them running on the super-soft.


rosberg uses exactly the same brake discs as hamilton.

looks like qualifying will be very close between a lot of drivers and teams with button, peres, sutil and di resta in the mix. i can wait to see the out come.

Tornillo Amarillo

Nice article.

LH, breaks, I don’t know, I think it is time to solve the problem, Lewis. If drivers have all those alternatives, great for Mercedes as a team indeed.


This is fascinating; great stuff as always, James.

Unfortunately for MB, these issues imply that by using their top two drivers and not someone from elsewhere in the MB racing family, MB, LH NR had the opportunity to optimize some of these braking techniques and different brake parts and settings over the course of 1000km of testing.

I suspect that these implications and possiblities won’t be lost on the FIA and MB’s competitors. Lewis’s reference to his extensive simulator work aside, no simulator is anything more than that, an approximation. A thousand kilometers in the current team car, on the other hand, gives – or should give -much better feedback. And different brake settings are installations are logical things to adjust when tire testing.

Jonathan Lodge

You make it sound so easy.

It was a Pirelli test with their engineers running it. We know 2 drivers were involved – so that is only 500km for Lewis. We don’t know if they used both cars – so we don’t know what brakes were used. With the need to get to Monaco and change a lot of steering components it is quite possible they used only one car for the test. I would think it extremely unlikely that Mercedes had much opportunity to change anything. Add to that Pirelli’s need for consistent setup across each tyre tested and there is very little room for Lewis to change anything.


Seems like Lewis could use a couple days of testing in the car to get on top of this braking situation. If only Mercedes could find some way around the in-season test ban…


I guess a test where you could make set-up changes would be a prerequisite then …


LOL! But no no, there was no advantage to be gained, all the press releases say so, Mercedes drivers must have worn unmarked helmets to express their selflessness…


Ah I’m not worried at all, Lewis is a F1 World Champion! This Mercedes adventure will do him good both professionally and at a personal level! This will be the making of his persona!

This is one of the many ways he’ll become a great driver more than he’s already now 🙂

Him being out qualified or not winning at the moment will never diminish our perception of his values!

Looking forward to this partnership!


Wonder if Lowe coming on board would be of help in this matter?

Jonathan Lodge

He will certainly bring fresh ideas but it sounds like he, like Lewis is used to working with a different set of products that neither will be using again. It would seem McLaren’s exclusive deal is suddenly very important.


It won’t do any harm!


Agreed about Lowe … he will know exactly what Hamilton needs to get the best out of him.

JA, in the FP2 session, when you had Brawn on, didn’t he say that Rosberg moved over to Carbon Industrie brake discs as well?? That’s what I got out it, but I find that hard to believe, as the calipers would still be Brembo.

Mark Hughes said that LH was Brembo/CI (caliper/discs), while NR was Brembo/Brembo. I can’t see him getting such a basic fact wrong.

Lastly, welcome JA to our shores! Montreal is a great city, especially Old Montreal. Have fun!

CGV is a great track … looks simpler than others, but is anything but. A great compromise between top speed and grip.


Ross said that they had made some material changes which Rosberg has also taken, but didn’t elaborate on who uses what manufacturer’s discs etc


Interesting … but time will tell if this is the case or Rosberg is simply the faster driver. I think it is the latter. Two years ago Hamilton was beaten by Button on a car on which Hamilton had years and years of experience. Looks like Hamilton is coming up with silly excuses. He will be better off concentrating on his driving that on his image.


Rosberg could be the faster driver, but it is too early to say. Button was never faster than Hamilton on a consistent basis, and odd races can’t give a clear picture. Don’t forget that Barrichello was faster than Button for parts of 2009, but that didn’t mean he was a better driver – certainly Brawn didn’t seem to think so as he was dropped at the end of that season, while Button was wanted but went to McLaren. Similar to now, Barrichello’s advantage was caused by Brawn changing mid-season to a brake setup that suited him but didn’t suit Button.


Hamilton was beaten by politics two years ago, not by a teammate. Some of that politics was caused by a silly comment he made that annoyed the F1 establishment and caused rocks to lobbed in Lewis direction, the other part was by a teammate who took full advantage of the situation.

Lewis is easily the fastest F1 driver today as he was in 2011. Ask Alonso or Kimi (the two other super fast drivers). Or better, ask his boss Ross Brawn, who alone has produced a whopping 9 driver championships and is looking to Lewis for his 10th.

Alexander Supertramp

Well Button was in his second Mclaren year in 2011.. Besides, he didn’t beat Lewis on speed, which is exactly what Nico has been doing for the past races. You’re assessing that Nico is the faster driver based on 3 races, whereas for the sake of your argument you forget things Lewis has done in the past. I know we can’t live in the past, but this article gives a very plausible explanation for the fact that Lewis has lost out to Nico. I do agree that you shouldn’t make excuses every time you lose, but how often do you hear a formula 1 racer saying that he has been beaten because the winner was a better driver? You hear it sometimes, but most of the time they are all bad losers making excuses (tyres, strategy, overall performance of the car). It’s in their nature, they are fierce competitors.


My tyres have ever been ready

in the first quarter of the lap this year and a lot of time goes in that first part of the lap.


Judging from free practice 1, it seems Lewis is getting back to the promised land.

During his two serious timed runs on the Inters, he was fastest of all in the first sector, so yeah, it was a good idea for him to re-use the C I brakes.

And yes, the use of two brake systems will create headaches for the team but they knew what they were getting themselves into they signed Lewis on.

Anyway, it’s a good thing that Paddy Lowe can work again for this means he can help out Lewis’ side of the garage get on top of this issue.

But overall, Lewis shouldn’t be too worried about Nico’s early out-of-the- gates. If you recall, Lewis’ best seasons i.e. 2007, 2010 and 2012, all of which he begun as a slow burner, in fact his teammates in all those seasons recorded the first wins.

Ironically in two of those seasons i.e 2007 and 2012, Lewis got his first win in Canada.

So yes, happy days are here again.


And in those three seasons, 2007, 2010, and 2012; Hamilton won in Canada.


Surely his best season was the one when he became Champion?

He, himself, has stated that it’s not race wins but Championships that define a driver..


Yeah it seems that’s what history records and what the novice seem to follow.

However,I would suggest last year his performance was the best of his career. He was very quick very consistent didn’t make many mistakes ( possible set up on Spa was a gamble). He would have won many more GP’s and quite possibly another championship .!had his car not failed and even more so his team not failed him. In arguably the most competitive season with so many world champions.

The old argument it takes more than a great driver to be a winner in F1


I agree that last year was the best of his career. Still astounds me that he won less points in 2012 over 20 races than in 2011 (his worst year, in terms of driving and consistency). 2008 he did make more mistakes than he had in 2007, but had some brilliant drives. 2009 he drove really well too, but the car was a dog for the first half. 2010 again drove well, but at crucial moments in the championship (ITA and SIN) overreached, instead of letting the results come to him.


2010 and 2012 were great seasons for Hamilton? 4th in the WDC both years, finished behind Vettel and Alonso each year. You should raise your standards.


but 2012 was just unlucky for lewis.he drove brilliantly,but his car failed him too many times.6 dnfs none of which you can really blame on lewis.he was leading a few of those races too.

VP of Common Sense

Hamilton easily had the best car during the first half of the year and he strung together 3 3rd place podiums in the opening 3 GP. He should have won far sooner than the 7th GP of the year in Canada. The fastest car on the grid and the fastest driver should have won more races early and often in 2012. The fastest driver should be able to claw back a few lost seconds to pit stop errors with a series of fast laps over the rest of the GP. If you feel that 2012 was one of Hamilton’s best years, you must believe that Alonso had one of the greatest years in F1 history with a much slower F2012 that still finished 80 points clear of Hamilton and only finished 3 points shy of Vettel.


It is up to Merc to resolve the brake issue, especially as the problem has been identified right from the tests in Barcelona. It is also intricately tied with how Merc uses its tyres. I wonder why they are even worse than the backmarkers in this area and for so many years in a row? Its very puzzling. Could it be to do with their FRIC system?



Maybe they need to get rid of this FRIC system.


Excellent! Thanks James and Mark!

Now I want to see the people that were talking about LH do not know technically about driving… 😉

LH talking about the setup and the different materials (how he could understand that the CI could work better with different approach), is a master piece.



No he’s not (obviously they all are great drivers), he’s just trying a different aproach because the “stock” car doesn’t work for him.

No need to elevate him to the “master piece” class.


rosberg has had 3 seasons to learn how to nurse tyres on the tyre eating mercs.

once lewis gains that knowledge i expect him to be a shade faster than rosberg most of the time.


Or maybe Rosberg is just a faster driver. Maybe not but we will have more idea later on in the season.


According to Lewis’ blog, he lost 0.3 seconds in the first sector of Monaco on braking, but was only down 0.1 at the line. So possible that Rosberg is faster, but at this point, I would say that Hamilton is doing an amazing job!


There is a general trend of trying to elucidate who is the fastest driver in general terms, which in fact is a nonsense. Rosberg is better at breaking than Hamilton with Brembo brakes for the moment, and that has traduced in a slight performance advantage the last three races. With other brakes, other tires, other cars… HAM might be faster than ROS. There is not an absolute fastest driver. Get two drivers, make a sampling of driver performance in many different situations (different tires, brakes, cars, weather conditions…) and make an average. That way, and only that way, you will know who is the faster driver “overal”.

Imagine you start waching F1 at the beggining of 2012 and decide to stop waching after 10 races. You could end up thinking Webber is a faster driver than Vettel, and everybody knows he is not. But with that car, tires, conditions… during the first 10 races, he actually was faster than Vettel, at least at 1 lap performance. So it is clear that the data adquired during those 10 races would be not enough, and you could end up with the wrong answer.

I’m pretty sure HAM is faster “overal” than ROS, and that will only be clear after some time, when we have more data.

A similar thing happens with Vettel. It is clear he is fast, but how much? As fast “overal” as Alonso, slower, faster… In my vew there is not enough data, so we still have to wait. In a few years time, when a bigger amount of data is available, there could be some people shoked to see he is not as fast as light (what some people seem to belive). But there are certain signs, certain special things that only ALO does (and HAM in a lesser extent), which make me belive (and many others) that VET is not at the same level as ALO.

So my conclusion after all this is… wait and see!! I’m pretty sure Lewis will come up on top sooner or later.


“Or maybe Rosberg is just a faster driver.”

– No, he isn’t!

“Maybe not but we will have more idea later on in the season.”

– No, you won’t have a better idea because the car’s geometry and aero is around the Brembo brakes, not the ones Lewis will be using.


Ross Brawn in the practice session on 5live said they where both using the same brakes which where the ones Hamilton requested. I don’t know when from, but assumed was from this weekend.

Brawn said Rosberg tried them and felt ok on them so didn’t mind using them. So maybe will have an idea later in the season!


i heard the interview, too, and Brawn said that they’re both using the same calipers and the C.I. pads, no?


and nico was 4ths slower,so maybe nico didnt feel so great on them.but its the first time in a while,lewis has been quicker than nico,and it happened when both were using the brakes lewis likes.


Yeah I heard their both using brembos which is Mercedes contracted brake supplier- they do not have deals with two brake manufacturers like Lewis had at Mclaren where he chose Carvon Industries. It will take a while but he is a great driver and he will optimise his braking sooner rather later.


Great feature, James. I know how much of a difference different braking pads/discs/lines can make in sports cars just driving on the road in terms of general feel and confidence. This effect must be amplified to an extreme degree in F1 cars. Lewis will have been developing his braking style since he was 8 years old and it’s quite natural he would feel unsettled at the moment.


Alonso had exactly the same problem at McLaren in ’07. Once they switched to his familiar Hitco setup, he became more competitive immediately.

IIRC Rubens had a similar situation with the Brawn in ’09.


Yes, I remember that. The Canadian GP was a low point for him.


I think that was Alonso’s worst race ever!!


On top of that, he also drove on Bridgestones for the first time.


Kind of reminds of Zinardi switching to Steel brakes. Although not as extreme in this case, I can see what the engineers are talking about in terms of the changes to the car they would have to make. I do not think it will help Hamilton any. It will just create other problems that Rosberg will not have. Hopefully this won’t compromise Rosbergs car/developments.


Well, OK then.

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