Williams Team Principal and former Mercedes Chief Strategist, James Vowles, has detailed one of the traits that makes Lewis Hamilton "incredible" behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car.
Vowles worked with Hamilton throughout their dominant period at the start of the hybrid era in 2014 through to 2021. During that time the team won seven Drivers' Championships between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, and eight Constructors' Championships.
While there was often rivalry between Hamilton and Rosberg on track, behind the scenes the seven-time World Champion had the edge due to a specific trait that made him stand out above the rest.
Speaking to the High Performance podcast, Vowles explained: "Lewis just had these oodles of natural talent. With him he's got these tendencies and traits where, if you go out in FP1 he's like an octopus all over the wheel. He'll change every setting on the wheel and explore. It's what makes him incredible."
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Vowles: Hamilton uses data as a starting ground
Vowles recalled a specific moment one year during their intense inter-team title battle, where Hamilton managed to find the edge over Rosberg on track through his natural abilities.
"There was a time on simulation in Brazil it said 'go into 7th gear up the hill' and within two laps Nico was doing exactly what we asked him to do. With Lewis, he went back down to sixth and he was finding a tenth there. It took until the end of the session before Nico saw the data," said Vowles.
"He's [Hamilton] this optimiser where he'll use the data as a starting ground, but he's got a feel beyond anything else for it. He's got no issues exploring the boundaries. That originally manifested itself when he would often go off at Turn 1. He would find the absolute limit of braking and it would push him wide at Turn 1, then abort the lap."
Even though Hamilton has became one of the most successful drivers during his time at Mercedes, Vowles believes it took a while before he managed to mature into the driver he is today.
"One of our biggest frustrations with him, over 20 laps he did one and we're like 'Come on, you've got to do more than that!' And actually if you look at the maturity of Lewis between 2013 and now, he does the majority of laps. He's found a way of gaining the experience from the lap, but he was this perfectionist that wanted to maximise everything.
"Because he's explored all these boundaries, he knows in just a few laps during FP1 what the boundaries of the car is, what the limits are already with the tools he has on his steering wheel, which are quite fast for what it's worth. Therefore he understands how to get the car into the right positioning as the grip comes up.
"That came with some downsides. Often he would change the car so quickly, that you'd lose yourself. Certainly with data, the track is evolving and you're changing everything. That's often why you'll see him [Hamilton] drop backwards, and then he'll jump forwards again because he's come onto a setup that's known and he's back on the money. He's able to do that where many drivers aren't."