Why Mercedes didn’t retire Hamilton sooner

2014 Belgian Grand Prix lap times and fastest laps

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The records will show Mercedes took pole position at Spa-Francorchamps this year with over two seconds in hand over their closest rivals, and in the race Nico Rosberg’s fastest lap was almost two seconds quicker than anyone else – yet they still lost the race.

That’s remarkable enough in its own right, and the top staff at Mercedes are rightly furious that an unnecessary collision between their drivers cost what should have been another one-two finish.

The scale of Mercedes’ advantage gives some insight into another of the interesting storylines of the race – Lewis Hamilton’s eagerness to retire his wounded W05 while the team wanted him to stay out.

Hamilton incurred considerable damage to the floor of his car while driving back to the pits with a puncture, and after he rejoined the track the car was clearly not handling to his liking. But despite those problems Hamilton’s car was still quick – indeed, he took 2.7 seconds out of his race-leading team mate between laps three and eight.

Nonetheless in a series of radio messages to his team Hamilton made it clear he wanted to retire the car. “I’ve got nothing, guys,” he said shortly before his second pit stop, “the rear end is so bad”.

Hamilton, of course, is used to having a much quicker car underneath him than almost every other driver in the field. His badly wounded car was, in the early stages of the race, still better than what many of his rivals get to drive on a good day.

Afterwards Hamilton estimated the damage had cost him “at least 50, 40 points [of downforce]”. He told reporters: “I could do nothing, I was driving the arse off the car and the thing was all over the place and I couldn’t catch Romain Grosjean.”

Hamilton’s comments reflect the condition his car was in by the time he retired. But to begin with he was regularly over a second per lap faster than Grosjean, as the date below shows. He overtook the Lotus on lap 23.

However Hamilton’s car was getting worse. “The condition of the car deteriorated further as the race continued,” explained Mercedes’ executive direcotr for technical, Paddy Lowe.

It became increasingly clear to Mercedes that his only realistic chance of scoring points was if the Safety Car came out. This was not an unreasonable gamble to take – the Safety Car had appeared in four of the last five races at Spa-Francorchamps.

But even if the Safety Car had appeared, Hamilton wasn’t convinced it would help him. “It doesn’t even matter if the Safety Car came out,” he said afterwards, “I wouldn’t be able to pass the car in front. [Adrian] Sutil was pulling away from me.”

Hamilton was faster than Sutil until around the middle part of the race. But his car was getting slower, and soon the Sauber ahead of him was getting smaller instead of larger – which was due in part to Sutil being on the soft tyres. However after Hamilton’s final pit stop it became clear the tipping point had been reached, and Mercedes finally retired his car.

Up until that point, Hamilton had usually been quick enough that the potential appearance of the Safety Car could have helped him take at least one point. As his race engineer Peter Bonnington pointed out during the race, had they retired his car early and then seen the Safety Car come out, “we’d be kicking ourselves”.

Belgian Grand Prix lap times

All the lap times by the drivers (in seconds, very slow laps excluded):



Nico Rosberg118.205116.991116.292116.033116.097116.749116.431120.796134.63115.819115.495114.392114.46115.16115.029115.702116.191115.39121.21126.661111.898113.015116.305114.163113.088113.534113.423113.131113.104113.142113.414113.957113.392117.808128.023110.511111.338111.104110.905110.856111.168111.345111.595111.987
Lewis Hamilton117.652160.954132.4115.346115.993116.358115.993116.173116.046115.919116.229116.216116.429116.501116.832116.724121.321129.857113.926114.395114.224115.38114.449114.691115.092115.472115.217115.091115.488115.865122.738131.075113.707114.881115.908116.211115.059128.268
Sebastian Vettel119.311116.613116.374116.129117.202116.791116.624116.578116.44120.504128.444115.132115.339115.574115.008115.57115.558115.51115.603115.369115.253119.713127.368114.687115.795115.046114.97115.094115.348115.052115.961115.366115.394118.982127.565112.953113.086113.198112.995113.437114.213116.768116.211114.624
Fernando Alonso120.01116.398116.386116.909116.439116.906116.603117.341116.398116.273116.159120.692134.321115.596114.723114.834115.105115.473115.65115.291117.044117.075115.57115.306120.647128.992113.908114.453113.879114.364113.926114.233113.952114.241114.005114.454115.678114.977115.142115.167115.436117.58117.195122.987
Daniel Ricciardo120.472116.499116.302115.694115.834116.287116.455116.464115.236115.319119.913127.446114.927114.409114.226114.352114.432114.423114.66114.626114.331114.402114.242115.15115.039114.972119.544127.111113.255113.178113.74113.326113.422113.397113.476113.405113.231113.392113.231113.219113.557113.52113.466112.974
Valtteri Bottas121.149116.631116.094116.425116.423116.729116.692116.174116.35116.212115.73120.477128.096114.828115.203115.212115.292115.505115.659115.561115.413115.02114.745114.907115.406114.962115.331119.617127.975114.556114.102114.302114.319114.233114.766114.187114.278114.014114.112112.716113.47113.534113.575114.606
Kevin Magnussen122.531117.281116.662116.465116.492116.433116.687116.994116.987116.904120.837128.36116.018115.141115.447115.729115.454115.453115.648115.372117.488116.589119.525126.566114.549115.348115.442114.203114.298114.495114.73114.474114.413114.866114.431114.769115.931114.665114.798114.936116.228117.438117.083116.658
Kimi Raikkonen121.561116.81116.231116.36116.292117.023116.547120.906128.859114.727114.333114.746114.856114.79115.003114.903115.184115.761115.446115.366119.85128.23115.844116.158114.924115.458114.823114.822114.692114.675114.981114.585114.398114.559114.534114.813114.684114.318114.09115.416114.852114.823115.335116.803
Felipe Massa123.34117.771118.153117.876118.048117.393118.008117.713123.712132.15116.311116.493116.975116.855117.691117.1117.409117.237116.951117.364121.765128.567113.161113.451114.013114.211114.4115.459114.8114.449114.859114.786114.924115.415120.016127.204112.512112.552112.592113.496113.454113.777113.575114.543
Jenson Button123.675118.275116.999116.803116.559116.602116.562116.846117.105116.687117.247116.583121.025128.784115.428115.6115.235114.835114.977114.799115.292116.433116.234117.573116.792116.226115.792115.473120.182126.848113.589114.291113.907113.899114.042113.943113.705113.483113.591113.719114.918117.962116.705115.911
Daniil Kvyat124.486118.474117.371117.702117.81117.386117.891117.643116.536121.015129.668114.721114.989115.159116.512115.876116.109116.245116.249116.353115.827116.984115.541120.449131.064114.159114.755114.534115.147114.978114.734114.698114.731114.494114.744115.121115.271115.001115.028114.737115.423115.174115.363115.751
Jean-Eric Vergne126.461119.385117.574117.408117.612118.055117.645116.83117.671117.125118.248117.161117.726118.047121.831130.025116.314116.589116.353117.602117.122115.798116.089115.988116.259116.904115.614115.331119.859127.864113.276113.755113.669113.897113.413113.606113.444113.703113.621113.832114.173114.885115.145115.567
Sergio Perez123.993118.375117.289117.825116.575116.967116.777117.248121.109129.421114.899115.489116.341115.7116.947117.183116.709115.91116.241116.071116.328121.109128.12114.778114.659114.645114.73114.532114.701115.136114.907116.281115.533115.023115.667115.936115.067115.031115.004115.242115.211115.079115.357115.704
Adrian Sutil125.467118.913117.954117.679118.119117.712117.683118.3117.847118.777122.029130.066115.307115.984116.97117.043117.496117.358117.049117.179122.007129.317114.359114.535114.733114.403114.997115.084115.036115.06115.106115.555115.364120.006127.803112.413112.945112.804113.433113.452113.515113.688114.274114.182
Romain Grosjean134.583138.206117.512117.671117.784118.633117.669117.478117.557117.243117.475117.944122.46129.625115.746117.434116.209115.695115.667116.004115.649116.173117.183116.222116.427115.972120.846132.919116.099115.981116.207116.741122.203
Jules Bianchi165.961135.897117.798117.914117.786117.989117.834118.207118.167118.21117.956117.966118.17118.028118.237118.556118.627118.799118.619118.54118.788119.098124.245131.527117.364117.101116.827120.546117.371117.218119.962116.347116.705118.428119.272117.85116.708117.388145.306
Pastor Maldonado
Nico Hulkenberg125.739117.815117.483117.554117.873117.362117.763117.903118.546121.031130115.519115.619115.898115.965115.871115.823115.892115.731115.56115.716115.912116.041115.951116.079116.174117.55116.518116.77120.335129.006114.416114.198114.414114.765113.96114.11114.25114.307113.612113.702113.771114.152115.597
Max Chilton131.336120.516119.33118.845119.026119.475119.235118.863119.551119.898124.419132.554117.877118.501118.573118.574118.669118.846118.505118.28118.245118.625118.623118.721118.693118.684117.848118.526123.046132.658115.247116.001115.893117.02117.827116.301116.149115.526116.31120.433119.075117.574120.409
Esteban Gutierrez127.44119.008117.761117.953117.837117.508117.813117.392118.816118.676117.877118.581118.439123.132130.192115.73115.829115.572115.618115.776116.589116.146116.516116.227117.857116.63115.79116.124117.661121.098128.176114114.476114.465114.23115.372114.341115.656114.537114.991115.18114.646114.871114.852
Andre Lotterer129.985
Marcus Ericsson130.738120.564118.965118.974119.183119.342119.109118.63119.131120.077124.312132.991118.082118.217117.917119.18118.708118.413118.87117.974118.26118.347118.25123.749131.969115.9116.685116.665116.879117.941118.331117.008116.974116.851117.785118.548116.825116.905117.084118.658120.989120.028118.965

Belgian Grand Prix fastest laps

Each driver’s fastest lap:

RankDriverCarFastest lapGapOn lap
1Nico RosbergMercedes1’50.51136
2Adrian SutilSauber-Ferrari1’52.4131.90236
3Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’52.5122.00137
4Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes1’52.7162.20540
5Sebastian VettelRed Bull-Renault1’52.9532.44236
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-Renault1’52.9742.46344
7Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso-Renault1’53.2762.76531
8Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes1’53.4832.97238
9Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’53.6123.10140
10Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’53.7073.19633
11Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’53.8793.36829
12Esteban GutierrezSauber-Ferrari1’54.0003.48932
13Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’54.0903.57939
14Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Renault1’54.1593.64826
15Kevin MagnussenMcLaren-Mercedes1’54.2033.69228
16Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’54.5324.02128
17Max ChiltonMarussia-Ferrari1’55.2474.73631
18Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault1’55.6495.13821
19Marcus EricssonCaterham-Renault1’55.9005.38926
20Jules BianchiMarussia-Ferrari1’56.3475.83632
21Pastor MaldonadoLotus-Renault2’09.07218.5611
22Andre LottererCaterham-Renault2’09.98519.4741

2014 Belgian Grand Prix

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Image © Mercedes/Hoch Zwei

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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44 comments on “Why Mercedes didn’t retire Hamilton sooner”

  1. I think begging to retire the car is not the attitude of a champion. One need only look to Alonso to see what a never give up mentality can get a driver…

    1. Five engines total this season not eight, thanks to Hungary Lewis is already one down vs Nico, with no chance of points and Monza next up it was logic not attitude causing Lewis to request retirement.

      1. i don’t think lewis is that smart. When Hamilton is winning, he claims he never gives up, when not winning…

        1. lolz, maybe you are pointing the finger at yourself, Lewis said exactly that in the post race press conference. He also said he was under very little pressure to come up with such a ‘smart’ idea as to not blow your motor on a pointless race.

    2. Hammy has shown that attitude several times this year. He was just being realistic.

    3. GB (@bgp001ruled)
      25th August 2014, 3:07

      stop adoring alonso please! do that in your room…

      1. he’s not adoring Alonso. I am a grosjean, vettle and massa fan. I really don’t like Alonso but he unlike most drivers including Hamilton. Alonso will never give up a cause until the finishing line. he would drive a car with no front wing to the finish if it happened. the only other people I know do this would be vettel (brazil 2012) and grosjean possibly with his career and india 2013

        1. Those are completely different circumstances, this year a much greater focus on reliability is given, meaning that it is almost certain that no one will finish at Abu Dhabi without incurring penalties. Also, with the best scenario being Lewis scores a point or two and Nico scores 18, this is not really going to matter, and it is far more advantageous to ensure the cars reliability for a future race where he can score big points. I would have been very angry at Lewis if he had come over the radio and said the opposite.

          1. Alonso fights as hard as possible but he’d think about the championship 100% too. Think about his championship winning years, he’d do only what was necessary to pick up the title.

            Lewis was very mature to think about retiring. Of course he wants to drive but he wants to win the championship more.

    4. It is exactly the kind of thing a world champion would say, if the car is deteriorating and the chance of him getting a decent number of point is infinite coma then adding unnecessary miles to the clock is going to be a huge disadvantage in future races where he is actually running at the front, if that engine fails at a future race then we all know it was (potentially) avoidable. Scoring one or two points is nothing in this title race (famous last words!) so the safety of the car should be reserved so that he gets greater reliability when he can take a huge amount of points.

    5. Did he ask to retire immediately? No…He went out, gave it a go and made a decision to re-group. No need to work the engine when he’s already disadvantaged on that front with respect to his team-mate.
      Imagine this…he continues to the end, finishes in 15th and then needs a new engine for the next race. Then you’d say he was silly to continue with no hope of getting points.

      1. imagine this, if Hamilton was in 2nd place, he would have finished the race on the engine so what is the difference? better to stay out, they turned the engine down anyway, there was a chance of points.

        1. He wasn’t in second place. Did you even read what lb wrote? Hamilton tried and it turned out that getting points was simply impossible. That’s the scenario. Not having a possible win and then throwing it away for a lack of effort.

      2. going by the logic of saving engines/ and no points then all cars after the first few laps should then retire from the race?

        1. and who will be the winner ???

  2. It’s the first time that 2014 cars were faster than 2013, I think. Last year’s fastest lap was a 1:50.756, two tenths slower than Rosberg today.
    Of course Rosberg had brand new soft tyres, low fuel, but it’s still a remarkable achievement, in my opinion. It’s a shame that the W05 is the only car capable of doing it.

    1. Of course Rosberg had brand new soft tyres, low fuel

      I don’t remember it from the top of my head, but I guess last year’s fastest lap was achieved in a similar way.

      1. @hunosci most fastest laps are

        1. That’s what I said.

    2. @yobo01 But remember last year’s cars ran on medium and hard tires; this year was medium and soft.

  3. Did Lewis incur the damage while driving back to the pits, or cause it? If he’d taken 20s longer but brought back a less damaged car…we’ll never know.

    1. Seems pointless to ponder it then.

      1. not if that is the reason he incurred the damage.

    2. It was a long way back to the pits and there was no info for Lewis about how the bits left on the rim were behaving. I will give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. Lol…..but he was driving on the racing line and not slowing traffic behind him at one point.

  4. It¡s funny to see the laptime comparision between Daniel and Seb. It’s like watching Mark v Seb all over again but in reverse order: Daniel gets the car round faster and using less tyres…

    1. Not a huge surprise considering the running Seb had in FP1 and FP2. From what I’ve heard he had to adopt Daniel’s setup due to the lack of running, therefore he naturally used up more tires which slowed him down.
      Not taking away any of Dan’s performance, but we should stay fair at Seb’s performance.

      1. @lheela it didn’t happen only here…

    2. @fer-no65, looking at just ROS and RIC their lap speeds are so similiar, except when ROS was on new tyres playing catch-up.

  5. A voluntary (I’m not going to win, so I want to go get a beer ;-)) retirement would have cost them a penalty. Better to look for a reason to retire that avoid the penalty.

  6. Lewis would never willingly give up on a race. He’s a fighter but when alls said and done Rosberg done him wrong

  7. You have to remember that between laps 2 and 8, Rosberg was driving with just half front wing.

    He was so slow that didn’t even pulled away from the pack and was probably going to lose the lead to Ricciardo if he stayed out longer.

  8. The laps 3 to 8 issue was down to Rosberg having a busted wing.

    Also he had the debris on the antenna for a while. Anyone note the rich irony of Rosberg getting thrashed about the head and shoulders by a piece of Hamiltons tire debris? That was only meager helping of justice.

    1. :-) I thought the same about that debris, although I am not completely sure it was from Hamilton’s car, looked like something coming from the grandstands to me.

    2. Based on where he picked it up (I thought it was around Eau Rouge / Radillion / Kemmel, I think it was more likely from Bianchi.

      I may be misremembering the replay when he picked it up though.

      1. Björn Svensson
        26th August 2014, 0:06

        Yes, he did pick up the debris from Biancis car, but only because it was dragging under his car for a couple of laps. My guess is that it was threading from Hamilton’s thrashed tyre, almost every driver drove over some pieces of it since it was all over the track. And those threads are incredibly tough, so there’s no wonder that it would survive a good while under a car.

  9. Am I the only one who believes that lewis just decided to drive slower and in this way he ultimately forced the team to retire the car?!

    I mean he asked the team 4-5 times and sounded more and more desperate. On lap 19 he was the fastest car – so at that moment still no sign of damage?!

    1. No, you’re not the only one

    2. You do realize teams have something called telemetry and they can see if he did anything like that.

  10. something interesting is that with massa and bottas, after massa’s second pit stop massa was faster for the majority of the rest of the race and with info that massa had debris stuck in his car from the Hamilton-Rosberg incident costing him all that time and it only got removed at his second pitstop eguating him to losing 40 seconds. it would be interesting to see where Massa would of ended up as I think he would of ended 4th or 5th possibly

    1. See this: https://www.racefans.net/2014/08/24/2014-belgian-grand-prix-lap-charts/

      I’m saying it’s the usual unwarranted “Massa excuses” for not performing though. He went from doing a poor stint on medium to softs. Of course laptimes will drop.

  11. On one hand Mercedes did have to leave Hamilton out in case of a safety car to see if they could salvage a point or two, but considering how badly damaged the car was, how far back he was and most importantly the fact that Hamilton is one engine down on Rosberg after Hungary with penalties if a driver exceed the limit, it is completely understandable why Hamilton suggested retiring when he did.

  12. Just noticed that Rosberg set a time on lap 21, less than halfway through the race (and so presumably with about 50kg of fuel on board), that was half a second faster than anyone else managed all race long (even Ricciardo pushing for the win at the end). So even disregarding his late charge on softs, the Merc really was devastatingly quick around Spa!

    Also, I hadn’t noticed that Sutil was the second-fastest person during the race – perhaps there is hope for Sauber yet this season?

Comments are closed.