FIA allow Lewis Hamilton to change tyre for European GP
Mercedes driver given replacement front tyre after damaging Q2 set
By James Galloway in Baku
Last Updated: 27/12/16 8:34am
Lewis Hamilton believes the high probability of Safety Car phases in Sunday's European GP could prove key in his attempts to recover from his terrible qualifying - insisting "it's not impossible to win".
The world champion's chances of making early headway from 10th on the grid have been aided by Mercedes receiving permission from the FIA to change the front-left tyre he flat spotted in Q2.
Drivers who qualify in the top 10 must start on the tyres they set their fastest time on in the second stage of qualifying.
"We have received permission to swap the front left of his race set, and have done so with a front left from a different set," a Mercedes spokesman said. "Only the front left was flat spotted on the Q2 set, not both fronts."
Article 24 of F1's Sporting Regulations states: 'Any such tyres damaged during Q2 will be inspected by the FIA technical delegate who will decide, at his absolute discretion, whether any may be replaced and, if so, which tyres they should be replaced with.'
Hamilton starts 10th for the second time in five races after an unusually error-strewn qualifying hour saw him make several mistakes before crashing and breaking his car's suspension at Turn 10 in the closing minutes of Q3.
However, Saturday's GP2 feature race, the first to run on Baku's new street circuit, provided potential clues over how the grand prix might play out. Twelve drivers retired from a race featuring four Safety Car periods, with the start witnessing a five-car accident at the first corner.
"Safety Cars can be a blessing for me," added Hamilton. "We saw in GP2, it's a long way down to turn one.
"I've got a good car with good pace, so providing we can remain clean on track and not get caught up in other's mistakes or make mistakes, we should be able to get some good points. It's not impossible to win still."
But despite his polesitting team-mate Nico Rosberg being in the box seat to extend his nine-point title lead, Hamilton is optimistic there are still plenty of opportunities around a Baku circuit which has already proved its ability to catch drivers out.
"I have no idea how it's going to be. But the best thing I can do is try to look forward," he said. "There's no point looking at the past, no matter how p***** off you can be. We've got another opportunity".
Rosberg agreed the prospect of caution periods was "going to be one of the challenging aspects of the race".
Hamilton's errors left the path clear for Rosberg to claim his third pole of the season and landmark 25th of his career. But despite there being eight cars between the two Mercedes on the grid, the German isn't ruling the Briton out.
"I'm very, very happy to be on pole and I'm pleased that my direct opponent is a bit further back because that's going to make it easier for me in the race," said Rosberg.
"Easy is the wrong word because winning a Formula 1 race is never easy and the opposition is still massively on it, with Ricciardo and the Ferraris. And Lewis from 10th - he's shown it so many times already this year [he can come through the field] and on this track you can overtake the best I think ever in F1. We'll see, but it looks like it.
"So I expect him to come back quickly."
The last six times Hamilton has started outside the top five...
|Race||Grid slot||Race finish|
|2016 Russian GP||10th||2nd|
|2016 Chinese GP||22nd||7th|
|2014 Hungarian GP||22nd||3rd|
|2014 German GP||20th||3rd|
|2014 British GP||6th||1st|
|2014 Austrian GP||9th||2nd|