Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Sepang International Circuit, 2016

Hamilton ‘wasn’t pushing’ when engine blew

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Mercedes executive director for technical Paddy Lowe has denied Lewis Hamilton’s engine failure in Malaysia occurred because he was pushing his car hard.

Red Bull’s Helmut Marko had suggested Hamilton’s failure happened because he was trying to pull out a gap over Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen who were chasing him.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2016
Japanese Grand Prix practice in pictures
Lowe explained what Mercedes understood of the reasons for Hamilton’s blow-up during today’s FIA press conference.

“Lewis had a failure of one of his big end bearings at a very low mileage, a little over 600 kilometres,” said Lowe. “He had three new engines from Belgium where he took all the penalties, this is the second of those, first race Malaysia to be used properly. So very young failure for that bearing and not at all typical of the model.”

“We were operating it within completely normal bounds, no parameters out of their normal range. And no, he wasn’t pushing particularly hard, he was running in a normal race state at that part of the race. So totally unexpected for that reason.”

Mercedes have had difficulty tracing the exact cause of the fault because the engine was damaged when it failed, Lowe explained. “We’re trying to understand why the bearing failed” he said. “We don’t understand it precisely.”

“[It’s] very difficult on these occasions, we don’t often see it, the box of bits that you get back from a big engine blow-up, and very difficult to analyse that forensically and arrive at a root cause. But we’ve taken a number of precautionary changes across all eight power units that are on the grid to try and reduce the stress on that bearing.”

Sabotage claims dismissed

Lowe dismissed the allegations of sabotage by the team which arose after Hamilton said “something or someone doesn’t want me to win this year”, remarks he later said were referring to “a higher power”.

“I think anybody with an ounce of intelligence analysing this situation would realise that the prospect of us designing a system which would cause a big end bearing to fail at that precise point in the race… if we were that good we would control everything at every point.”

“We’ve had other failures in the year that were very unfortunate. If we were good enough to arrange such sabotage we wouldn’t have any failures. So I think it’s a very tough business Formula One. The engineering is operating right at the boundary of performance and therefore things to go wrong. The complexity is incredible.”

“Trying to engineer something to happen on purpose on a car, it’s similar to when people say to us ‘you favour one driver over another’ and the idea that we might give better equipment to one driver over another. If we’d invented something that makes our quicker of course we’d want it in both cars because we want to win the race. So we never hold back or would ever even contemplate, even if we could engineer it, which we couldn’t. So I think anyone intelligent can rule that out.”

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However Lowe conceded Hamilton had been unlucky this year and even admitted he’d been pleased to see the driver overcome his early setback.

“We all know that you can throw three double-sixes in a row and yet when you see it done, just emotionally you feel ‘how did that happen?’ And we have got a little bit of that scenario with Lewis.”

“We have eight power units out there running around and with the exception of one failure they have all fallen to Lewis this year on his power unit and that is something that none of us can really understand, how things could turn out that way. But it is just the way the dice has been thrown.”

“Things do go wrong, we understand that, it just so happens that by pure coincidence, that has occurred repeatedly on Lewis’s car. So we’re gutted about it and we just wish luck wouldn’t fall that way. Understandable that Lewis, as we all were feeling immediately after that blow-up, how can that have happened again.”

“Personally I was only just getting over the idea of the consecutive failures he had in qualifying earlier in the year where already we felt the statistics had fallen very, very unfairly. I was very happy for Lewis that he’d managed to recover his points back up to a place of level competition with Nico [Rosberg].”

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
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22 comments on “Hamilton ‘wasn’t pushing’ when engine blew”

  1. He might not have been pushing, but one could deduce from the radio transcript that he was in ‘quali mode’. At least when Rosberg later asked for ‘strat 3’ (quali mode) he was told “Standby Nico, we’re thinking about it relative to the other car’s failure”

    1. Lap 48: message from Mercedes to Rosberg about his engine, not allowed to access “start 3” (free load mode) to maintain his podium. 2 laps later they decided 2 laps of “start 3” (free load mode) were good to go, but no more.

    2. XF1Fcontr, I would say that the fact that the team told Nico that they were weighing up his request given Hamilton’s engine failure doesn’t necessarily mean that Hamilton was using that mode when his engine failed. It could also reflect the fact that, given Hamilton’s car had just broken down and the cause of that failure was unknown, the team was concerned about Rosberg wanting to use a more aggressive engine mode that could have put more stress on his engine.

      Given that Rosberg seems to have been setting reasonably similar lap times to Hamilton before his engine failure, I would have said that it seems unlikely that Hamilton was in that engine mode at the time. It seems more likely to me that, given that the radio call came out after he’d been given the time penalty, Rosberg wanted to know if he could use that engine mode if he needed to push harder to create more of a gap between himself and Kimi.

  2. Very well said Paddy, I hope the next blow up goes for Rosberg to see how he handles theses situations, haven’t been for thoses engine mishaps Lewis would have leading comfortably, so it is not the partying or the music that had cost Hamilton but only reliabitly this year, and whilst Lewis has efectively made some mistakes so Rosberg did, what happened to Lewis reminds me of what happened to Stirling Moss, well managed season only to lose for a mechanical failure, I hope Lewis overturn this and wins the crow again cause he really deserves it.

    1. you mean like how he (Rosberg) kept himself in Abu Dhabi 2014 for example @abdelilah? He certainly wasn’t throwing tantrum or even behaving badly, probably his most vexed we saw him was right after Austin 2015 with the thrown cap “incident” with regards to the championship situation.

      1. Even though I wasn’t a big fan of Rosberg after 2014 Spa, his conduct at Abu Dhabi was admirable. His team wanted him to retire under some pretext to spare him the embarrassment of being lapped by Hamilton, but he stayed out to the end and did get lapped by Hamilton. A classy way to lose. The only reason we can’t fully admire Rosberg is that some of his on-track behaviour has been inconsistent to prevent him earning a reputation as an honourable driver or a good loser.

        Paddy’s engineering plain-speak is refreshing, especially as it comes from the team themselves. But hey, the best way of fuelling conspiracy theories is to say there’s no conspiracy!

      2. @bascb You’ve got to put things into perspective, compared to Abu double 2014, both drivers had reliability issues that year, Lewis was a bit more unfortunate although he overcame the situation, so having had a DNF in the last event wasn’t that dramatic considering that both drivers had their share of bad luck, this time, only Lewis car is failing on critical moments, Rosberg has been helped by these incidents and don’t get me wrong, the championship balance would have been in Lewis’s favour like last year had he had a clean run.

        1. Well, first of all, I understood your comment to be meaning that you don’t think Rosberg would be able to see the bigger picture had he lost the race like that with an engine failure @abdelilah. And I think 2014, when he didn’t just lose the race, but lost the chance to fight for the championship in the last race, a race he might have won, Rosberg showed that he did cope with it fine enough.

          And if you want to go down the road, remember that it was Sochi last year that put the title in Hamiltons hands for the taking. A race that Rosberg could and probably would have won if not for the car giving up on him (and after having lost a solid chance at the podium in Monza from an engine failure too). And again, he handled it pretty well, even when he then lost the race, and the title battle defenitively in Austin.

          Yes, this year the burden of the technical issues has certainly been on Hamilton, and yes, Rosberg has profited from that. But we still have 5 races to go, and who knows what it will look like at the end of the year. Over their time as teammates so far, the difference (in technical issues) is still not that big

          1. He never even once won a race where he was behind Hamilton after the first lap.

            He wasnt going to win that race and if it werent for the double points he would be defeated already.

            He lost the chance to fight for a win which was much likely lost.

            Hamilton lost a race that was going to turn things to his favour again. Much bigger blow.

          2. Rosberg was behind Lewis, both on track, and on points. Only reason he was on contention because of the double points! Even if Ros won and Ham had to be 6 or lower i think for Ros to win under normal point system, or 3rd in the double system as it is… On the minor chance that if Ham was DNFed, he would have won the champs… Given that he caused the SPA incident on purpose, he would be hated forever!

    2. I don’t watch formula 1 because of how gracious drivers act when they lose in a devastating manner, if you don’t like him don’t pretend it’s his reactions to the blowout that’s stopped you liking him.

    3. Maybe Lewis is right? A higher power doesn’t want him to win…

      Why would that be I wonder?

    4. Rosberg will not, never did blame the team or tell the world that the team conspired against him, or anything to such effect. he is simply not that tupe of person.

    5. Romberg is way inferior to Hamilton – far as I know, hen has never actually overtaken Lewis on the track. So if something failed he would just accept it – he’s used to losing anyway.

  3. Paddy Lowe again showing that he is always the most sensible person in the paddock.

  4. Oh, give it a brake; tell any of the drivers at the beginning of the yer “mate, you’re gonna have only on mechanical DNF and they will give their left ball for it”!

  5. This just says it all, he wasnt pushing hard… What is this? Leisure sunday drive or F1?

    1. He meant they were not running an aggressive engine mode

      1. When the engine gave up the first flames came out of the left side waste gate exhaust pipe, which means the waste gates were open, the exhaust was bypassing the turbo, the turbo was being spooled by MGU-H, MGU-H was sharing ES power with MGU-K, THIS MODE can only operate at full fuel flow rate, THIS MODE is called free load mode, THIS MODE produces the maximum power possible, it is not the most efficient mode, as such it is hardly used during the race. all power unites on the grid have/had this free load mode since the new formula.

    2. He could be lying. No reason for him to tell the truth to his competitors.

      F1 is about how well you lie as much is it about how well you out perform your competition. Those two things are symbiotic.

  6. I won’t go as far as to suggest that Mercedes are sabotaging Hamilton, but for them to suggest that it’s somehow impossible to engineer failure… not sure I’m buying it. They analyse wear rates, fatigue, try loads of different alloys & fancy metals, and only they are the ones scrutinizing the blown up bits after they go bang. Then they come & tell us stuff… they could tell us whatever they want, & we should believe it or we’re not intelligent… I’ve seen engines go bang because of bearings before… improper size, wrong durometer, loss of oil pressure (which was in Merc’s failure report, but now not a mention of it from Lowe). They ran fine until they went bang. Doesn’t mean they were all fine when put together, or that you could have spotted the problem without a full teardown & test on said individual bearing. The failure was inherent the minute they went together. Didn’t require much “engineering” to do it either.

    1. Also, on his comment about engineering failure “at that precise point”… I don’t think if it was sabotage that it would matter in the grand scheme of things when exactly it failed, only that it failed before the flag, if the desired result is to take that car out of the running.

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