Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Sepang International Circuit, 2016

Mercedes reveal why Hamilton’s engine failed

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Mercedes have traced Lewis Hamilton’s race-ending engine failure in the Malaysian Grand Prix to a problem with a bearing.

“Our analysis has shown that Lewis’ engine suffered a big-end bearing failure in Malaysia,” the team revealed on social media.

“This happened without warning after 618 km and was preceded by a loss of oil pressure in turn 15.”

Hamilton’s retirement, which left him 23 points behind team mate Nico Rosberg in the championship, was the first this year for either Mercedes driver.

However Hamilton also experienced a succession of early-season failures during qualifying sessions which led him to use a raft of new power unit parts at the Belgian Grand Prix and take the accompanying penalties. This has left him with a stock of new units to use during the remaining five races.

He therefore has further new engines he can use this weekend without taking a further penalty.

Hamilton’s comments about his failure attracted widespread attention after the race but he has since expressed confidence in his team.

“The guys are hurting from what happened too and I know they’ll be working just as hard to get things right next time,” he said. “It’s not the lowest point I’ve had. There have been lower moments for sure.”

“Of course last weekend was a massive disappointment,” he added. “Not just for me personally but for the whole team. But there’s no use dwelling on these things. That’s just negative energy.”

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix

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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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41 comments on “Mercedes reveal why Hamilton’s engine failed”

  1. Well you were gifted Monaco Lewis and I know you would rather have that on the CV than Malaysia.

    Net result you lost 18 points which is the only thing you can be disappointed with.

    1. oh come on nico was 2 seconds a lap slower,so it was hardly gifted.and ppl will say nico was gifted spa,china and russia.

      1. I think he is talking about Ricciardo

      2. Rosberg too. If i would be competing for the championship i would have never let Lewis pass no matter what the team told or ordered me.

  2. So do we blame Hamilton for losing his bearing or Mercedes?

    1. I hope that’s a pun, cos if it is it’s a goodun.

    2. Since for Japan ALL cars running the Mercedes engine have been adviced to run in more conservative settings AND they went back to a “less agressive” lubricant, the issue is likely to be somewhere between the supplier of the bearing, the updated, improved Petronas lubricant used and the design of it all made by Mercedes.

      And then we might throw in Hamilton’s driving, maybe even Marko’s theory that RBR pushing Lewis to run fast “helped”, and we have a nice and wide range of people we can blame.

      Off course Mercedes are still investigating exactly whant happened (to be able to solve any issues that might come up), and we could also wait for that. But where’s the fun in that, eh.

      1. I mean, it was a pun, but my personal belief does fall in line with your response.

    3. Either way, it’s science (of) friction.

      Apparently there was an oil pressure drop right before the bearing seized the moment(um).

  3. Brexit innit!

    Hello 1970’s your big end failure misses you!

    No doubt Brixworth were forced to source their big end seals from a UK supplier due to ever weakening pound.

    1. Its due to a higher power.. Or El nino

      1. Scrimping on the oil imports.

      2. Higher power than that bearing could handle. xD

        1. Higher power than Handilton could bear? ;=}

    2. perhaps you missed or didn’t understand the salient point of the press release from the Merc team: “preceded by a loss of oil pressure’. It’s not the bearing that caused the problem…it’s the lack of oil pressure.

      1. Mmm, very good point. And there’s not much insight into what caused that blip in pressure.

        1. except this Merc comment, “These include, but are not limited to, a more conservative oil specification”.

          1. Miss Bathing Costume
            6th October 2016, 21:51

            psst.. Petronas, your underwear is showing.

  4. Bearing… One would think, that doesnt happen anymore…. But there we go.

    Certainly not lewis drivestyle. Just pure bad luck.

    1. @jureo

      I heard somewhere that NASA hade demand of 99.9999% span of reliability of their parts on the apollo rockets, it’s just that they cointained over 7 million individual parts…

      so I agree, bad luck, some things you can’t predict or prepare for

      1. Automotive requires parts to be designed <1 part per million failure. The fact you are even repairing something, says enough, just like Mercedes cannot always get it right.

        Nasa crashed a mars lander on the surface of mars on entry by getting inches vs mm wrong…

  5. I think it’s good that they are being so open. It’s rare that we get such specific information.

  6. Are teams allowed to strip the engine after each race to examine the parts and put it back together? And are components like bearings/gaskets/seals something they’re allowed to replace? 600 km does sound like it has one race under its belt prior to Malaysia.

    1. Since this engine won’t be ran again, they can probably do with it whatever they want @phylyp!

      If I understand it correctly, that engine had done one friday training in Spa and (either FP1 for 24 laps or 175 km or FP2 with 33 laps for 230 km), and in Malaysia it had ran FP3 (16 laps almost 87 km) and some 11 laps in qualifying (making for 61 km more) and then the race laps he did some 240 km (41 laps + lap to the grid/warmup lap).

      From those numbers, they add up when we take SPa FP2 and then FP3, qualifying and the race for the malaysian weekend.

      1. Heh, I wasn’t implying stripping this engine at this time, @bascb :-)

        I was referring to stripping an engine after it has completed one race weekend, and prior to the next, to service its internals – I was unsure if that is allowed, and if allowed, what – if any – replacements are permitted. Obviously they can’t change any performance related items like pistons, etc. But what about things like bearings, which are failure prone?

        Thank you for the breakup of mileage on this engine.

        1. Ah, right :-)

          Certainly they look at a lot of parameters, then check the parts that can be taken out of it (as well as the oil) and if they get any indication of issues I think they have to informe the FIA of that before having a look (and they have to regiser any parts they exchange). But I am not completely sure about it

      2. @bascb I question those numbers and even Mercedes statement of 618km. Unless they swapped the power unit out over the race weekend that I’m unaware of, I have Hamilton running close to 710km just for Malaysia.
        FP1 25 laps for 138.6km
        FP2 35 laps for 194km
        FP3 16 laps for 88.7km
        Q 11 laps for 61km
        R 41 laps 227.3km (with 1 formation lap and 2 early VSC’s periods.)

        1. As mentioned, @dragon86, that engine was put in the car only AFTER the friday running (the teams tend to use older units to spare the “hot” ones, this one had done Spa on Friday only because of the ruling that a team has to run the engine for at least part of the weekend if they want to stack them like Mercedes did).

          So, yes, they did swap the engines and the running on Friday was done with a different engine than the one put in the car for saturday and the race (making a difference of over 300 km).

          1. Alright. I’m in my NASCAR mindset, where they same engine has to be used throughout the entire weekend.

    2. It’s a blown engine, they can do whatever they want. They could even fix it, in theory (not bloody likely), but since the seal is broken, it’s no longer an FIA approved engine, and so can’t be used during a race weekend without a penalty.

      In Austin in 2012, Ferrari broke the seal on Massa’s gearbox– didn’t do anything else to the gearbox, just broke the FIA seal– and as a result, Felipe took a 5 spot penalty for a “new” gearbox (a penalty which moved Alonso on to the “clean” side of the grid).

  7. ‘preceded by a loss of oil pressure at the last corner of the previous lap’. Yep, under that circumstance a bearing will fail.So the next question: why the loss of pressure? blocked pipe? faulty oil pump? poorly machined channels? foreign matter in the oil? G-force on the corner?
    It is very difficult to believe that Mercedes could produce an engine so deficient in oil supply to the major components. So Lewis’s inference of possible interference is now looking not quite so ‘wild’ as has been screamed by the media and the Ham-haters.
    So, it’s not really LH’s driving style….suck it up HAM doubters.

  8. “…preceded by a loss of oil pressure” So that happened before the bearing failure, meaning it was a loss of oil pressure that killed the bearing? Well, what caused the loss of oil pressure? Seems to me *that* would lead to the root cause. This is very confusing the way it is written. As I read it the bearing failure was just a side effect of something else.

    1. It is unclear isn’t it? I took it to mean that as the bearing started to fail and open up the oilway that caused the loss of oil pressure. Might not have been total loss of pressure, just a drop, that they could see.

    2. yes, that is probably exactly what the guys in Brixworth are currently looking at to find out what actually happened in which order and what caused it Andy, @lockup

    3. and another interesting comment from Merc, “These include, but are not limited to, a more conservative oil specification” maybe gives us another clue. Did the oil itself fail in it’s function under these parameters and the high track temperatures? Was it ‘polluted’ oil? Unusual thought but did it coagulated and compromise it’s pumping? Quite exciting this investigation, huh?

  9. Sounds like the kind of failure from too much stress on the engine. Maybe Mercedes has reached the limit of performance.

  10. Can someone explain to me what this issue of stockpiling means? And could that be one of the possible reasons why LH’s car failed?

    1. Each “power unit” is made up of 6 components: engine (ICE), turbo, mgu-h, mgu-k, battery, and control electronics.

      Each driver is allowed 5 sets of the 6 components, for a total of 30 parts. Due to early problems in the season, Hamilton had used up his Turbo and MGU-H allocation by Spa. Putting in new parts meant penalties, so Mercedes decided to take all the penalties they might incur for the entire season in one go, so the team put in ICE #4 – 6 into the car, as well as TC #6 – 8, MGU-H #6 – 8, and MGU-K #6. He took some 45 grid slots worth of penalties, but since he couldn’t go any further back than 22nd, that was OK. Then due to timing, Alonso took *his* penalty after Hamilton, and Hamilton got moved up to 21st on the grid.

      Effectively, this gave Hamilton an extra power unit (although with re-used battery / electronics). Unfortunately, that ICE just exploded, so now he’s back level with Rosberg in terms of engines remaining. No idea if the MGU-K or anything else was damaged when the engine blew.

  11. Clear sabotage to this day.

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