Lewis Hamilton is concerned he will be entering unknown territory if the Chinese Grand Prix is run under wet conditions.
The Mercedes driver has yet to spend any time using this season’s wet tyres and with the heavy rain that caused sodden drivers to scoot around the paddock in golf carts on Thursday forecast to continue through to Sunday he is aware difficult conditions could end in costly damage to his car.
Hamilton is one of the best drivers in the wet but with Pirelli supplying entirely new compounds of tyres – including intermediate and wet versions – he has yet to experience how they work. There was a wet tyre test in Barcelona but Hamilton did not take part owing to an electrical fault.
“I am not really looking forward to a wet track because I haven’t driven on the new tyres,” he said. “Usually I like driving in the wet but I am a little bit apprehensive. I have got to learn a lot in a short period because I have not driven on these tyres. I might go out and it might be exactly the same as in the past but that is unlikely. The car might need to be put in different places but I will still drive like I always do.”
Hamilton is fortunate the race is in Shanghai. He has always been strong at this track with four wins and seven podiums from 10 races. A cooler race where the tyres can be pushed for longer suits an aggressive driving style, which coupled with heavy braking areas plays to his strengths.
He is also aware an error could be costly in the season-long fight for his fourth word championship. The engine allocation has been reduced to four and using any beyond this will incur a penalty. “I have only got four engines and we have got a shortage of parts. Dry is all good but I do relish the challenge. If anyone is able to do it I can, so I will figure it out.”
Hamilton was second to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the first grand prix in Australia but wet conditions in China will make assessing the form of the two main rivals at this early stage much harder. In Melbourne Hamilton said he was relishing the fight with Vettel but would prefer Fernando Alonso – struggling in the McLaren – to be also in the mix.
Alonso has returned the compliment and added he would not rule out racing alongside Hamilton again in the same team. The pair had a difficult relationship in Hamilton’s debut season at McLaren in 2007 and Alonso left a the end of that year. The Spaniard’s contract with McLaren ends this season when there is potentially a seat open at Mercedes.
“There is no problem with Lewis, we respect each other a lot and the problems we had in 2007 was because the team was not managed properly,” Alonso said. “I respect him a lot, he is a great champion of our generation. He is fantastic to have on track and what he means to F1, not only because of the titles but also the publicity we have outside the circuits with his lifestyle and character. It is good for the sport. We all like to compete and to beat the best.”
On the chances of joining Mercedes, he said: “Nothing is ruled out.”