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Hamilton suggests new car R&D deadline to level F1 playing field

Lewis Hamilton has suggested that a cut-off point for the start of development of the following year’s Formula 1 cars could help to level the playing field.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG, 3rd position, lifts his trophy on the podium

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG, 3rd position, lifts his trophy on the podium

Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Hamilton is part of a Mercedes team that dominated the series and won seven drivers’ titles from 2014-2020.

He admits that such a position gives teams the option to stop developing their current car and make an early move to the next model – thus helping to perpetuate their level of success and creating periods of dominance.

He says that If teams were prevented from switching their research and development resources from the current car to the next one until after a specified date then other teams would have a chance to catch the pacesetters.

"It's not aimed at any one particular person or anything,” he said. “It's just obviously in my 17 years of being here, even before I got here, you see a period of time of dominance. And it continues to happen.

“I was really fortunate to have one of those periods that Max [Verstappen] is having now. But with the way it's going, it will continue to happen over and over again. And I don't think that we need that in sport.

“Just in my personal experience, when you're so far ahead, when you're 100 points ahead, you don't really need to do a lot more development on your car, and you can start earlier on your next car.

"And with a budget cap that means spending that year's money on the next year's car.

“But if everyone had a time for example, if everyone knew when we can really start, whatever date it is – October is way too late probably, but 1 August, something like that – then no one has a head start, and then it's a real race in that short space of time for the future car.

Jenson Button, Brawn GP BGP001

Jenson Button, Brawn GP BGP001

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

“I don't know, maybe that would help everyone be closer the following year, maybe. I might be wrong. But something's got to change. When we were winning world championships, we could start earlier than everybody else.”

Hamilton also pointed out that at the opposite end of the grid teams with nothing to lose can also switch development early.

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That was famously the case with Honda in 2008, when the Brackley-based team sacrificed that year's unloved RA108.

That choice led to the development of the car that eventually became the title-winning Brawn 001 in 2009.

“And then there are teams that weren't competitive,” said Hamilton.

“So then they just didn't bother working on that current car. If you look at Brawn, they just focussed fully on the next year's car from the beginning, and then they turned up next year and blitzed everybody. And that shouldn't be possible, in my opinion.

“But it'd be cool to see in the next 20 years that we don't have huge bands of time where one team leads too far ahead, because we want to see better racing."

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