Hamilton’s pit lane curse strikes again

2015 Monaco Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton must be wondering whether there are any new ways left that a routine visit to the pits could wreck his race.

Losing a near-certain win in yesterday’s Monaco Grand Prix was the latest in a string of blunders, controversies and near-misses involving him on the pit lane.

2007 Hungarian Grand Prix

Blocked in

Hamilton’s stunning turn of speed in his first F1 campaign made for a tense rivalry with McLaren team mate Fernando Alonso in 2007. It erupted to the surface in a pit lane incident in qualifying for that year’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

Then as now, the running order of the team’s cars was crucial, and when Hamilton refused to make way for Alonso early in the final part of qualifying, his team mate took matters into his own hands. As the paired waited in the McLaren pit box ahead of their final runs Alonso purposefully dawdled, leaving Hamilton insufficient time to complete his final lap.

Alonso took pole position but the stewards stepped in, penalising him for impeding his team mate. That restored Hamilton to pole position and he went on to win the race.

But while this pit lane drama may not have harmed Hamilton’s championship chances in the short-term, the knock-on effects for him and McLaren were dire. An incensed Alonso revealed to the FIA details of the team’s use of confidential information belonging to Ferrari, and the team was thrown out of the constructors’ championship.

2007 Chinese Grand Prix

The gravel trap

Hamilton might still have won the 2007 drivers’ championship had he and McLaren been a bit more circumspect during that year’s race at Shanghai. In wet conditions Hamilton seemed to be cruising to victory and coronation as the sport’s first rookie champion.

But he and McLaren misread the drying track. Hamilton continued lapping until his intermediate tyres were won down to the cords. Having lapped an incredible 7.7 seconds slower than Alonso on his last tour, Hamilton finally headed for the pits.

The left-hander at the pit entrance proved too much for his exhausted Bridgestones. The McLaren understeered wide and slowly came to an agonising stop metres away from the pit entrance.

“I think with hindsight we left him out a lap too long,” was the somewhat understated view of then McLaren deputy Martin Whitmarsh. A gearbox glitch in the season finale in Brazil two weeks later finished Hamilton’s title hopes.

2008 Canadian Grand Prix

Red light district

The following year in Canada, Hamilton again looked on course to win until it all went wrong in the pits. Hamilton led most of the field in during a Safety Car period, but a sluggish stop dropped him behind Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica.

That pair stopped side-by-side at the pit lane exit where a red light was showing, but Hamilton wasn’t expecting it and didn’t see it. He swerved left, missing Kubica, but planted his McLaren into the back of Raikkonen’s Ferrari. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, Nico Rosberg’s Williams then skidded into Hamilton.

“I don’t know what happened,” said Hamilton afterwards. “I saw the red light but by that time it was too late.” According to Whitmarsh, Hamilton had been warned the pit exit was likely to be closed.

Not only did he lose a potential win, but a ten-place grid penalty for the following race increased the damage done. Having arrived in Canada with a three-point championship lead, he left the following race ten points adrift.

2008 German Grand Prix

Recovery run

In a situation which was the opposite of Hamilton’s drama in Monaco yesterday, at Hockenheim in 2008 he was leading comfortably when the Safety Car came out and his team decided not to bring him in.

Hamilton had to make a further stop to fit the softer medium tyres, and when the Safety Car came in he was unable to build up enough of a gap to retain the lead after pitting. He resumed in fifth place.

Fortunately for Hamilton overtaking at the Hockenheimring is rather easier than doing so in Monaco. His first target, team mate Heikki Kovalainen, did not make life difficult for him. Nick Heidfeld pitted and came out behind the McLaren, leaving Hamilton to pick off title rival Felipe Massa and surprise leader Nelson Piquet Jnr to recover the win and spare McLaren’s blushes.

2010 Australian Grand Prix

“Fricking terrible idea”

Running third at Melbourne and stuck behind Kubica’s Renault, McLaren chose to bring Hamilton in for an extra pit stop, reacting to the same tactics being used by the chasing Mark Webber and Rosberg.

However this dropped him behind the two Ferraris, and despite catching them at up to two-and-a-half seconds per lap Hamilton struggled to find a way past Alonso. He began to question why the team had brought him in for a stop which had not been Mandatory. “My tyres were fine,” he said on the radio.

With two laps to go Hamilton lined up Alonso for a pass but was bundled into a gravel trap by Webber. He managed to rejoin, but a likely podium had been transformed into sixth place.

Now he let McLaren have it. “I’m telling you what, guys,” he said, “you pulled me in and ruined my race”. He could have said the same thing yesterday.

2011 Hungarian Grand Prix

Wrong call

Judging when to pit in mixed conditions is part weather radar intelligence, part driving feel and part instinct. For Hamilton and team mate Jenson Button, jousting for the lead in the drizzle on the 51st lap of the 2011 Hungarian Grand Prix, the moment they took different paths guaranteed one of them would be in the wrong.

It turned out it was Hamilton: Having switched to intermediate tyres the track dried out and he was quickly back in for slicks. A drive-through penalty for a driving infringement compounded his woes – he finished off the podium on a day when he might have won.

2013 Monaco Grand Prix

Backing off

Hamilton did not leave his pit troubles behind when he switched from McLaren to Mercedes at the end of 2012. Running behind Rosberg at Monaco two years ago, the pair pitted together when the Safety Car came out after Massa crashed.

As Hamilton would need to wait behind Rosberg in the pit box, Mercedes advised him to back off on the way in. But he slowed down too much allowing the two Red Bulls, which had already pitted, to jump ahead of him.

“Can’t believe we lost position to the two Red Bulls,” said Hamilton, adding, “Sorry about that.

Twelve months later Hamilton rued not taking the opportunity to pit when a Safety Car period was imminent, which cost him a potential chance to take the lead off Rosberg. However later in the year in Austria Hamilton brushed off claims that slow pit stops by his team might have cost him a potential win.

Over to you

Does Hamilton have unusually bad luck in the pits? Is there any reason for it or has he just suffered a strong of random misfortunes?

Have your say in the comments.

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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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    48 comments on “Hamilton’s pit lane curse strikes again”

    1. I think before I judge that question, I’d have to compile a list of ‘greatest F1 pitstop blunders that cost someone a podium’ I suspect we could get quite a list of them.

      1. I think anyone who’s been in f1 as long as Hamilton will have had quite a few problems, especially if you counted slow stops since most races have at least 1.
        It would be interesting to do totals but alot of work, and it’s very hard to tell which errors affected race outcomes and who is to blame.

      2. I think Nigel Mansell would feature in that list. Several times, maybe more often than any other driver. Though I have to agree Hamiltons list is getting quite long, too.

      3. Yes without a doubt, incredible blunder. It was obvious why their idea backfired but above all there was no need or whatsoever to stop and that’s the real blunder.
        When we mentioned Lewis and the pit-stop curse, maybe we should mention all the weird races McLaren won by having great timely pit-stops in 2008. I think it just goes around and comes back around, like F1 cars. good riddance.

      4. Not many F1 drivers had the fortune of having a car that is miles ahead of the rest. In most cases, a pit stop that is 0.5 seconds slower might be enough to change the fortunes from a win to a non-podium finish. For most folks, a goof up like that of Hamilton’s would have meant a free fall though the points position and an eventual finishing position with minor points.

      5. I’m sorry, but of that entire list of ‘Pit Stop Blunders’ I can only see a couple that were not Hamilton’s fault entirely or at least partly his fault.

        2007 Hungarian Grand Prix – Hamilton started the whole fracas by disobeying agreed team orders

        2007 Chinese Grand Prix – Correct me if I’m wrong, but it was Hamilton who drove the car into the gravel.

        2008 Canadian Grand Prix – Do I even need to point out why this was his fault?

        2008 German Grand Prix – Fair one, not his fault

        2010 Australian Grand Prix – Fair one, not his fault

        2011 Hungarian Grand Prix – This was Hamilton’s call. The team informed BOTH drivers that there were inters waiting for them if they wanted. Hamilton decided incorrectly, as he did with hilarious regularity every time water fell out of the sky, and Button decided correctly, as he often did. Hamilton’s fault 100%

        2013 Monaco Grand Prix – Hamilton’s mistake.

        Honestly, all this ‘bad luck’ is really just bad management! His semi regular slow or botched pit stops have also been partly blamed on Hamilton and his propensity to over shoot his marks in the box. This has been commented on several times by F1 commentators.

        All of these things and have you picked up what the common denominator is? HAMILTON…

        1. Yes Hamilton drove it into the gravel in 2007 china but that gravel took quite a few is not easy actually. If you watched practices you would have seen it. Rosberg went in there too.
          If you account that and that the team left him out until there was no rubber on that tyre then it wasn’t that hard to end up there.
          Hamilton radioed asking to pit because the tyres were gone but the team left him outside.

    2. On the other side he was the luckiest driver to have fast cars all through his career in F1
      2009 later half McLaren was good
      2013 Mercedes was the fastest in qualifying

      1. Jim Clark had the best car throughout his career but somehow this never gets mentioned. Same goes for Prost. In Hamilton’s McLaren years, only in his first did he have the best car. For his remaining time with the team, the car was never the best and the impression that it might have been was thanks entirely to Hamilton doing an “Alonso” and making it look good. With Mercedes, he did not have the best car until until last year. That’s hardly the “luckiest driver”.

        1. in 2007 McLaren had the best car thank to stealing Ferrari data
          in 2008 McLaren had the fastest car
          in Later half of 2009 McLaren was competitive and please check Kovalainen results midseason
          in 2010 Mclaren was 2nd fastest in qualifying behind RedBull and with F-duct was the fastest in Monza Montreal and Spa and check Button results
          in 2011 McLaren was very fast and check Button results
          in 2012 McLaren was the fastest car especially in qualifying
          in 2013 Mercedes was the fastest in qualifying and check Rosberg results
          in 2014 Mercedes dominated like no other car but McLaren Honda 1988
          in 2015 Mercedes is a rocket ship :)

          1. So you’re going to blame the driver because team principles in the top teams want him in their car?

            1. Not at all. He deserves the best but my point is that he was lucky in some aspects. Do you how many engines or technical problems did Vettel suffer compared to Hamilton?

          2. Patrick O’Brien writes “Grand Prix Rating” books, which I own, where he analyses timing data to work out the speed of each driver/car combination.
            Here are his results for the 2008 season, with “pre-race” meaning practice and qualifying times (aka one-lap pace), and “race” indicating average race times. All excluding anomalies of course. A value of 100.2 indicates an average deficit of 2 tenths to the fastest car, a theoretical 100.0 means that package was fastest every single time, etc.

            1. Massa/Ferrari: 100.21
            1. Hamilton/McLaren: 100.21
            3. Raikkonen/Ferrari: 100.33
            4. Kovalainen/McLaren: 100.35

            1. Raikkonen/Ferrari: 100.11
            2. Massa/Ferrari: 100.14
            3. Hamilton/McLaren: 100.41
            4. Kovalainen/McLaren: 100.66

            1. Massa/Ferrari: 100.18
            2. Raikkonen/Ferrari: 100.22
            3. Hamilton/McLaren: 100.31
            4. Kovalainen/McLaren: 100.51

            The McLarens and Ferraris were very close in qualifying, with Massa and Hamilton having identical one-lap performance (arguably, unless you think Massa is as fast as Hamilton, that means the Ferrari was slightly better in qualifying).

            However there was a considerably bigger disparity in the races. While the Ferraris were actually relatively better over a race distance than over a single-lap, both McLarens dropped off. My opinion has been that the McLaren was harder on its tyres than the Ferrari. This is supported by a quote from Hamilton: “I remember when it was McLaren and Ferrari, they had a slightly longer wheelbase, their car was better at looking after the tyres, the rear especially.”

            His books also reveal the extent of Mercedes tyre issues: while they were rated 100.3 over one lap over the course of the season, they dropped to 100.7 in the race.

            And while it is true that the McLaren of 2012 was the fastest in qualifying, I don’t think it was the fastest in the race, it usually had worse tyre wear than Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus. Plus, Hamilton was horribly unlucky that year. That article estimates Hamilton lost 152 points to bad luck that year, and would otherwise have won the championship.

            1. @polo
              this is incredible
              thanks a lot for the insightful information :)

          3. In 2010 ferrari was the 2nd best car in the beginning of the season then Mclaren were better in the middle part of the season and from Germany on wards Ferrari was by far the better of the two and Mclaren was only faster in Spa and Abu Dhabi. In 2013 Mercedes was only faster in China, Bahrain Monaco and Silverstone when it comes to qualifying and I remember Vettel dropping the ball a few times in quali and in some of them Hamilton made a difference like in Nurburgring and Hungary. Ultimately in the races, Mercedes were only the fourth fastest car and suffered horribly when it came to tyre degradation.

          4. @malik

            in 2007 McLaren had the best car thank to stealing Ferrari data

            2007 results:

            Ferrari – 9
            McLaren – 8

            Pole Positions:
            Ferrari – 9
            McLaren – 8

            Fastest Laps:
            Ferrari – 12
            McLaren – 5

            Kilometers lead:
            Ferrari – 2600
            McLaren – 2400

            And in 2008, the difference was even bigger (in Ferrari’s favor).

            1. @kingshark: thanks for the nice information but my question would be:
              Can we compare these figures with Toro rosso or Renault in 2008 and 2009? or Minradi or Sauber
              I can accept that McLaren was second to Ferrari that seasons but it was not a midfield team or a backmarker :)

          5. The data were acuried in March. Did Mclaren built there 2007 car in 2 days? Hell it might have been even after the first race.
            This “best car because of Ferrari data” is getting ridiculous.

      2. With the way kimi has bee. Shown up by alonso and now Vettel the general acceptance that the 2007 and 2008 mclarens were the best cars has to be reviewed.

        1. Even if it is not the fastest it would be the second fastest with tiny margin or being fastest at least on some tracks.
          Lewis is the only top driver that didn’t suffer being in slow car like Alonso in Minardi and Renault 2008, 2009, Vettel in Toro Rosso 2007 Button in Bar or Honda years Rosberg in Williams bad years and Raikkonen in Sauber

          1. @malik

            I would say Hamilton has mostly had really competitive cars. That’s because in his pre-F1 career, he was always clearly a stunning talent. So, he earned those competitive drives. It was not luck. It was not an experiment. It was purely due to exceptional talent.

            With those cars, he is already the most successful British F1 driver in history, perhaps only half way into his career.

            1. OmarR-Pepper - Vettel 40 victories!!! (@)
              25th May 2015, 20:01

              @paulguitar but even when I agree on his stunning talent before F1, many other drivers (including historical successful ones, such as Schum or Senna) had many years where the car was not even near the best. Hamilton deserves his F1 stats, but some of his route was already paved very comfortably for him to do so.

            2. @paulguitar: I am a Vettel fan but no doubts that Hamilton is one of the greatest in history and ti is really nice watching him but the thing is that he is the only current top driver that didnt suffer much in F1 carrer at least being a backmarker. Vettel preF1 was amazing too winning 18 out of 20 races in BMW ADAC formula :) but he learned a lot during Toro Rosso days and even won a race :)

            3. paulguitar10@yahoo.com
              25th May 2015, 21:23

              @omarR-Pepper @malik

              Agreed, very food points. I really wish we has got to see Lewis in a bad car in a way, I think it would have sometimes would have been spectacular, as with Senna, Shumi and Vettel.

              What I would like before Lewis finally retires is to see him and Seb together at Ferrari for a season or two. That would be EPIC!

        2. @david-beau
          Comparing current Kimi to the guy a decade ago is like apples to oranges. Kimi is currently past his prime years and struggling to adapt to the new style of racing, especially when it comes to qualifying but that doesn’t mean he was always a pathetic driver.

          Schumi had pathetic results in his second stint (Mercedes) with ZERO wins and was beaten by Rosberg several times. Based on that data, are you going to assume that it was only the car that gave him titles in 2000-2004?

    3. I’d never actually spotted this connection, certainly interesting to look back on all of the incidents…

    4. We could add Interlagos 2014 in this list? wasn’t his spin a result of pushing too much on worn tyres? not sure, but I remember that had he pitted 1 lap before, he’d have undercutted Nico.

      1. True. I’ve never seen a discussion on who actually made the call to stay out another lap. Probably yet another botched joint decision…

        1. IIRC the team told him to stay out and push one more lap as he neared the pit entrance. I believe Hamilton said something on the radio like “you should have told me we were going to push for 2 laps.” I could be remembering wrong though.

      2. Mr win or lose
        25th May 2015, 18:11

        The leading car always pits first. Pitting later is unlikely to directly gain a position, but in some cases it might work. The main advantage is fresher tyres later in the race.

        1. I know, but at that specific race, Hamilton stayed out for 2 laps hoping he’d go fast enough to “overcut” Nico, and it almost worked. But he spun off.

    5. Mr win or lose
      25th May 2015, 18:09

      Nice article, especially this quote:

      Not wanting to miss out on the fun, Nico Rosberg’s Williams then skidded into Hamilton.

      One minor thing:

      Fortunately for Hamilton overtaking at the Hockenheimring is rather easier than doing so in Monaco.

    6. What had me fuming at the time was Korea 2013. He had used up his second set of tyres by lap 20, and the team should have converted to a three-stop strategy. Instead, they left him out for 10 more laps or so to make the window for a two-stopper, all the while lapping ludicrously slowly.

      More recently, I think Hamilton’s strategists got off lucky in Japan 2014. Having overtaken Rosberg, he was some five seconds up the road when Rosberg was called in for his second stop. Hamilton was running in the 1m54s, and others who had just pitted (probably the Red Bulls), were doing 1m51s. So when they left Hamilton out for two or three laps longer than Rosberg, I feared they were dropping him behind Nico again. However, Rosberg couldn’t do those 1m51s, and he still emerged ahead.

      Finally, one other race that went horribly wrong on strategy was Malaysia 2011, the second race of the Pirelli era. They brought Lewis in early to undercut Heidfeld’s Lotus (now that feels like a long time ago), and kept having to pit him earlier and earlier than the rest, until at the end of the race he was running completely out of tyres and performance. The lessons learned did set him for an excellent victory in the following round in China, however, where the set of softs he had saved in qualifying paid dividends in the race.

      1. Do not forget Australia 2012. Getting him out behind Perez i thing and ruining his race.

    7. Sorry, I was loling reading to this long list. The red district one lol…

      Actually I was thinking that people are mad at Mercedes not because they called Hamilton, but because they didn´t call Nico. If Mercedes had called Nico and Lewis,both would have lost the race to Ferrari- Vettel (probably), conspitacy theoriest will be null.

    8. Can hardly call it a curse when several of these incidents were Hamiltons fault such as Canada 08, his spin and penalty doing more damage to his race in 2011 than the call for inters, and arguably China 2007 and Monaco ’13 he had a hand in his own bad luck. Hardly cursed.

      Hamilton has taken part in over 150 Grand Prix. If you look back at any career that long you’re gonna find cases where pitlane issues have impacted drivers results, off the top of my head I can think of several for Button, Alonso and Raikkonen each. Honestly I disagree with the underlining premise of the article.

      1. Agree wholeheartedly.

        I was specially gutted by Alonso’s pit incident at Hungaroring ’06. It ruined what could have been the best F1 race performance since Fangio.

      2. Maybe we can call it a thing, when this weekend Hamilton also has a hand in it, and in Brazil 2014 he also was involved in the decision to stay out for another lap to get past Rosberg, wasn’t he @colossal-squid?

        1. @bascb Kinda shows that you make your own luck to some extent, doesn’t it? Not that I’m putting all the blame on Hamilton!

          1. I think it does, yes @colossal-squid. And I agree on that last part.

    9. Bring back non-stop races! If Lewis really wants to be Senna when he grows up, he should do what Ayrton did: write to FIA, campaign to get the rules changed, test an Indycar, whatever it takes. Starting with the rule that says you have to use two different tyres in a race.

    10. As Albus Dumbledore said, “I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being – forgive me – rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.”

      I think Hamilton could say the same thing about himself and his teams. He is always close to limit, always pushes the team and just admitted that “a good loser is never going to be a champion”. He rarely sounds happy on team radio. He puts extra pressure on himself and the crew and this pressure as well as being on the edge the whole time increases the likelihood of error.

      Hamilton can clearly blame himself for some of those errors (Canada 2008, Monaco 2013). Several blunders have been caused either by the team or too much reliance on the team’s decision. I do not think it is really bad luck, it is just the other side of the mindset that has taken Hamilton to 36 Grand Prix victories and two world championship titles.

      1. @girts could this be the very first Harry Potter quote in this site?

      2. Honestly, I think Hamilton knows he shares part of the blame this weekend as well @girts, maybe that was why he was not all that angry at the team.

        1. ColdFly F1 (@)
          26th May 2015, 10:09

          Not all that angry at the team; but still mighty angry (video) ;)

          1. :-) I’d be upset about letting/seeing a race win slip out of my hands too.

    11. I think maybe the underlying problem is how Lewis Communicates with his engineer during the race. Maybe he has a little bit of work to do while communicating with his Pits while racing. Although not everything is down to communication for e.g China 2007 was just bad tires.

    12. I think Massa’s ill fortune in Singapore ’08 negates all of these as the only one that made an impact in his carreer was China ’07 which was his fault.

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