Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes race engineer, Peter Bonnington, has given a fascinating insight into their working relationship and the newly-crowned seven-time world champion’s desire and ability to keep improving.
In a rare interview, Bonnington spoke to Sky Sports F1 in the wake of Hamilton unexpectedly winning from sixth on the grid in Sunday’s rain-soaked Turkish GP in a result which emphatically clinched his record-equalling title success.
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Bonnington has been alongside Hamilton as his race engineer – a crucial link between the driver and the wider team in F1 – since the world champion joined Mercedes in 2013.
‘Bono’, among many other duties, is the voice heard over the radio in discussion Hamilton during race weekends, making famous messages such as ‘HammerTime’ and ‘Get in there, Lewis’ in what has become one of F1’s most famous – and successful – double acts.
Reflecting on Hamilton’s latest win at Istanbul Park, Bonnington said the 35-year-old kept on surprising him.
“Back then [in 2013] he wasn’t quite as polished as he is now. Now, today, just wow. Performances like today, the strength that he has just shines through,” said Bonnington in discussion with Karun Chandhok and Simon Lazenby which can be watched in full in the video above.
“Nobody could not be surprised by that performance. We know he has it in him but when he delivers you think ‘wow, I didn’t see that coming!’
“I’m optimistic but I didn’t see it happening just like that. By mid-race once we were on the inters we were settled into a pace, it felt like he had it fully under control. You always tell on the radio, as soon as the voice gets into this nice calm state you think ‘right, this is in control, let’s keep chipping away’.”
Moving from Schumacher to Hamilton
Uniquely, Bonnington has race-engineered both of F1’s two seven-time champions. He first worked alongside Michael Schumacher in the German’s three-year F1 comeback with Mercedes in 2010-12, before Hamilton took over the seat nearly eight years ago.
“We’ve grown up over these years since 2013,” said Bonnington. “I guess I still considered myself quite a young engineer back in those days.
“Michael’s years gave me such a learning ground – wow, it was a very steep learning curve – but moving on with Lewis, even then I still didn’t feel like I was probably worthy of dealing already a world champ. But it’s just having the time with him and we’ve kept improving, chopping away, year on year, just trying to find what’s the next thing that we can learn.
“Where can we find that next bit of performance? He just embraces it, which is really great. It’s the thing that people probably don’t see but it’s just that ability to learn and soak up the next thing.”
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