Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2018

Hamilton set for grid penalty after gearbox change

2018 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton is set to receive a five-place grid penalty for the Bahrain Grand Prix due to a gearbox change.

The FIA has confirmed Mercedes is fitting a new gearbox to Hamilton’s car. Gearboxes must complete six consecutive races before being changed, or drivers face an automatic five-place penalty.

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2018
Bahrain Grand Prix practice in pictures
Mercedes explained Hamilton suffered a hydraulic leak during the Australian Grand Prix. According to the team Hamilton was fortunate to reach the end of the race and it wasn’t possible to repair the damage so the gearbox could be re-used.

Mercedes is also changing the gearbox on the sister car of Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas. However he will not receive a penalty as the team had to replace his previous gearbox during the Australian Grand Prix weekend.

Marcus Ericsson and both Haas drivers will also take new gearboxes this weekend. None of these will receive penalties as they all failed to finish in Australia.

This will be Hamilton’s sixth gearbox change penalty in as many seasons since he joined Mercedes. He had one each in 2013, 2014 and 2017, plus two in 2016.

Update: The FIA has officially confirmed Hamilton’s five-place grid penalty.

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Keith Collantine
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76 comments on “Hamilton set for grid penalty after gearbox change”

  1. Aryton Senna
    6th April 2018, 20:49

    Stupid rule

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      6th April 2018, 21:06

      Well although this isn’t Hamilton’s fault that this happened, there is a slight advantage to having a new gear box compared to using one that has had some use, though it will be tiny. What did seem really silly is that although last weekend, Bottas was at fault for his incident. But he basically gained no advantage at all over the others by fitting a new gear box as nobody had done a single race of this season yet at this stage. So hardly any heavy running. And because of this rule, he started behind 5 drivers that didn’t get out of q2. To me, even just one race into the season, the rules make a bit more sense. But I guess they have to use them all year round.

    2. It’s Ayrton. Such a stupid rule, only now I realise this

    3. Chuck Lantz
      7th April 2018, 20:35

      “Stupid rule” … Agreed, at least to a certain extent. I can understand why there’s a penalty, but five positions is way too harsh. Two or three makes more sense if the punishment is supposed to fit the crime. A five-position penalty at Monaco, using the extreme example, essentially guarantees that you’re out of the running.

  2. Finally. A race that Ferrari might consider to let Kimi win.

    1. kimi doesnt win because he’s not fast enough, maybe this year because he is happier with the car, he might show better performance

    2. Kimi will never win. Even if Kimi manages to get in front of Vettel, after the first (and only?) pit stop Vettel will undercut Kimi. Ferrari needs Vettel to win and Kimi to be second to get as many points as possible.
      It feels like this time Ferrari will, unfortunately, win the WCC and WDC.

      1. Massa won two races in 2006 despite being a clear number 2 at Ferrari (Turkey and Brazil) he managed to put a car between him and Schumacher

      2. I disagree with your tinfoil hat theory. Here is a new one: Get Kimi the WDC and let him retire. Replace him with any of you armchair drivers or couch-potato strategists.

        1. Im up for it

      3. Why is that a bad thing?

    3. @ruliemaulana
      Ferrari don’t have a number 1 and number 2 status. When the drivers are evenly matched, they let them race (see 2007 and 2008) until one driver is clearly ahead in the standings.

      It’s not Ferrari’s fault that Seb is way more talented than Kimi.

      1. @ruliemaulana: You might be right, but it is Ferrari who decides whether the drivers are evenly matched or not. They might have thought so in 07 and 08, but it seems clear that they don’t think that now.

        1. Yes like Alonso said mclaren did in 07.

      2. @kingshark We knew that Vettel work much harder and Kimi doesn’t even want to touch simulator. If both of them at par is not wrong to admit that Kimi is more talented.

        1. Or that Kimi is too old for games.

        2. @ruliemaulana

          We knew that Vettel work much harder and Kimi doesn’t even want to touch simulator

          That was true when he was at Lotus. Since kimi returned to Ferrari, he was working on the simulator and people at Maranello started to see him more often than he usually do. Not surprised to see Ferrari extending his contract every year since 2016 given his track performances compared to Vettel. They value the work he is currently doing.

    4. Nope. Not as long as Vettel is also racing. It’s a long championship and Ferrari have to maximise every opportunity to let one driver mount a serious challenge. No matter how Kimi is driving, they’ll have to make sure Vettel finishes in front of him.

      1. This.

  3. I didn’t see this coming at all, LOL.

  4. Singapore 2017 all over again minus the rain

    1. Michal (@michal2009b)
      6th April 2018, 20:57

      It just started raining at Sakhir.

  5. All these years of following F1 and I still don’t quite understand the rules. They ‘couldn’t fix the gearbox within the six race cycle’. But, this is the second race? Or do they mean they couldn’t fix it at Sakhir? What are you allowed to remedy on a gearbox once it’s been used? I don’t get it, honest.

    1. @hahostolze The gearbox was broken in Melbourne already with a slow hydraulic leak. In Bahrain it was determined that no fix can be made to salvage the gearbox and it has to be replaced. Since the gearbox is only on race 2 of a required 6 race cycle a change of the gearbox brings an auto 5-place grid penalty. Which part of the above can’t you understand?

      1. Guybrush Threepwood
        6th April 2018, 23:04

        Or more simply: a gearbox must last 6 consecutive races or you get a penalty.

        And yes, all these penalty rules are confusing.

    2. A new gearbox is sealed by the FIA. The FIA gives you the extra sealed gearboxes to use during the season.
      It takes about 10 to 15 weeks to re-build a gearbox and have it certified for re-use. That is considered a new gearbox once that seal is broken(used). To answer your question, you can not “fix” an internal gearbox problem at the track.

      1. Chuck Lantz
        7th April 2018, 19:56

        When you say “The FIA gives you the extra sealed gearboxes to use during the season” it sounds like the FIA builds the gearboxes. If that was the case (no pun intended), then Hamilton’s gearbox problem would be the FIA’s fault (as the builder), and the penalty becomes senseless.

        So, I think you mean that the FIA seals a certain number of the team’s gearboxes?

    3. @hahostolze the gearbix has to make those races consecutively. However you can break the fia seal to repair some of it’s components, evidently what was wrong with it layed outside the serviceable partw.

  6. Man you posted the same on motorsport.com.

  7. Well, this will make the race even more interesting. Also, just noticed that in the years when Hamilton wins either of the first two races, he’s always gone on to win the WDC later in the year, so, if he fails to win on Sunday, then we could possibly get a Non-Merc WDC this year.

    1. Possibly, especially since, even if mercedes is faster, in normal circumstances I don’t see hamilton win after starting 6th, on top of that he has a tendency to perform relatively badly in qualifying when he has a grid penalty, so might be even further back.

  8. Another reason for Hamilton to put in one of those special qualifying laps in order to be as high as possible on the grid and to remind Vettel that he will come through the field in race day. Interestingly, he was doing everything to “break” his car in testing but Mercedes was bulletproof.

    1. he was doing everything to “break” his car in testing

      Was he? I mean, do any of us have a real insight into the teams’ testing programmes? (with limited time there might’ve been much more important things than “doing everything to break his car”)

      1. @davidnotcoulthard
        No, I don’t have any real insight into team’s testing programmes but Hamilton surely does.

  9. Vettel fan 17 (@)
    6th April 2018, 21:17

    That was unexpected…
    Why exactly did they change it?

    1. On Twitter Mercedes said they had a hydraulic leak during the Australian GP, and that damaged something.

      1. Vettel fan 17 (@)
        6th April 2018, 21:27

        Am I correct in saying there was some fluid coming out of the back of Hamilton’s car in the Australian Grand Prix.

        1. Is this connected to the engine getting hot last race, or is the gearbox not affected by that?

          1. Vettel fan 17 (@)
            6th April 2018, 21:39

            I believe they are separate, but I could be wrong.

  10. In was having a chat about F1 recently with a friend of mine, a huge F1 fan until the last couple of years. Same with me. Between us we’ve been watching F1 for 70-odd years.

    We said that the current set-up is almost as if the rule-makers have been given a brief to make the sport as bad as possible.

    1. Endless stupid penalties.

    2. Three engines for the season. Who came up with that? Whoever it was, they need to be in a different line of work.

    3. Heavy cars that are almost impossible to overtake in and sound like leaf-blowers.

    4. The Halo, which looks a lot like a toilet seat above the driver’s head.

    5. Paywall. We remember when most people would be discussing the F1 on a Monday at work. Not any more.

    It’s getting harder to put up with all of this.

    1. joe pineapples
      6th April 2018, 22:19

      Can’t argue with any of that.

    2. Amen. And I have been following it for 50 years.

    3. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      7th April 2018, 1:18

      About only thing I agree with here is about the pay wall. That will dramatically drop the amount of f1 viewers. In the UK, the only benefit is that Sky will have more customers. But less people will watch the sport. This is not good.

      However, regarding the penalties, nobody has really come up with a better idea to suit the current engines. Not having any penalty wouldn’t be fair. And if they allowed as many engines as you wanted, the top teams could afford this easily while the others would really struggle. I think the limited engines keeps getting less and less purely to save money. I understand the reasons for this. And I don’t think there is really a better way of dealing with it than the penalties they currently have to face unfortunately.

      The cars being heavy isn’t really what is stopping them overtaking. But I sort of can agree that f1 has got to the stage where it is certainly getting harder to do so.

      The Halo. Well, we all have different views. I don’t think about it any more. I can’t see how it looks like what you describe. They did extremely thorough research in the time they had to work out that it will be a benefit compared to not having it at all. It is there for a good reason. It may look ugly for some, but I don’t see how in any way it makes the sport bad.

      1. Reducing the number of engines to save money is something everybody understands but if you put the number too low you start harming the sport, this is what we are seeing currently and is probably what @paulguitar meant when he talked about three engines for one season making the sport bad.

        F1 races in their current format are not endurance races but the rule makers think the engines should be endurance engines (2018 rules mean one engine should last for seven Grand Prix events), this is an obvious contradiction. They have gone too far with it and it is affecting the sport in a bad way.

    4. About the paywall, I don’t know how things are in other countries, but in Italy we can still watch the races for free, later than when they are run, usually at 19-21.

      F1 doesn’t have as many fans as for example football, so in my case there’s no risk of spoilers unless I check myself before tv8 broadcasts the race exactly like it was in sky.

    5. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      7th April 2018, 13:46


      Best comment of all time – you forgot a couple of things.

      1. The inability for a new engine manufacturer with vast resources and prior history to re-enter the sport and create a reliable engine – ironically by probably the most reliable engine manufacturer in the world who has experience with a hybrid supercar.
      2. The switch of F1 from NBC to ESPN/Sky Sports – the initial reactions have been very negative.

      As for the paywall and F1’s new streaming service, I can’t talk much about it but it’s not that easy to put together a world class show with great commentators as Sky Sports and NBC have proven. Also I’m not sold on the ability to be able to follow different cars on screen because you will probably miss a lot of the action doing so.

  11. Mercedes is also changing the gearbox on the sister car of Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas. However he will not receive a penalty as the team had to replace his previous gearbox during the Australian Grand Prix weekend.

    What is the cut off for this rule? Could Mercedes have put in a much more fragile gearbox in Melbourne which could possibly be faster but only last one race and then replace it free of charge with a more reliable one this weekend?

    1. @yossarian Considering they would have had to take a 5 place grid penalty in Melbourne, I don’t think it’s worth it.

    2. The rules state that the duration must be consecutive races per allotted component. That negates last years “stocking” strategy to avoid penalties.

  12. Why do some parts have to last a set number of races, whilst on others (like ICEs & stuff), you are restricted to a set number over the whole season. Surely it would of been consistent, if they simply said you are allowed 4 Gearboxes for the whole season without incurring a penalty. Looks like Hamilton going to be stressing that PU of his some more.

    1. @ijw1 All PU parts have a limit, but only gearboxes have to do 6 races in a row. Seems pretty simple to me.

      1. @mashiat You misunderstood the point. They are not consistent. You have one set of parts that have to do a set number of races before they can be changed, and another set of parts where you can change at will but only a set number of times. Why don’t they simple set the rules on the number of gearboxes that can be used to be the same as per the PUs?

    2. @ijw1 I think I recall in a similar discussion a while back somebody on here said the gearbox rule was introduced before the engine rule was, and they have just never changed it since.

      Nevertheless I completely agree with you. And furthermore, as altering the gear ratios during the season was unnecessarily banned when they introduced these power units, it would be nice to see them being allowed to have a different set of gear ratios for each gearbox, similar to how engines can be updated

  13. Great news. Fingers crossed Ferrari maximise on this although they looked good today.

  14. Terrible luck after only the first race.

    But if too many of people these errors/mistakes add up then it looks like complacency, or even incompetence within the team, which Ferrari were known for last year.

  15. It’s been said that it’s better to be lucky than good, Lady Luck seems to have deserted Lewis again, who will she favour this year?

    1. Kimi ?

    2. Deserted him again?
      Kimi has no “luck” because hes bad and Hamilton has alot of “luck” because hes good.

    3. @hohum How dare you to assume the luck gender.

  16. So we can expect a good race then!

    Wonder what Ferrari will do if Kimi is out front

  17. Kimi to finish his win drought? Wouldn’t that be great? He already won two press conferences this yeat, so who knows

    1. @johnmilk: That’s a good one. How do you win press conferences? XDD

      1. @alonshow it a subjective opinion of course. But just by not giving one to the questions whilr keeping it casual with no spare time to bs.

        An ice-cream and he gets dotw for me

    2. Would be interesting, I read some days ago that this is also a tabu track for him, he has 8 podiums of which 5 second places but not a single win!

    3. Kimi was always comfortably fast here too. I think the bet is on Kimi this week – as Seb looked grim so far.

  18. I honestly think Hamilton prefers this. It’s boring to have the quickest car. When you are in the pack, even though you have the fastest car, you still have to fight back to the front past cars that are not that much slower than yours. Pretty sure he is going to have a smile on his face after the race tomorrow. Also I prefer this. I like Hamilton’s fighting instincts more than is speed. Gonna be a nice race.

  19. Why won’t Bottas get penalty? His new gearbox fitted before the race is yet to complete 6 races in a row.

    1. Indeed, wanted to ask this as well!

      1. The rules state that replacement gearbox (which Bottas recieved in Melbourne) is only required to last the remainder of the weekend.

  20. so you do all this managing, you have most durable car of them all, and still you have a penalty at race 2

    Although this is actually good for Max, I still find it WACK

  21. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    7th April 2018, 9:45

    I understand the rule, I understand the cost saving reasoning behind all this. But I do not care, this rubbish is ruining race after race and this season is going to be the worst.

    1. Surely Hamilton starting 5Th ish will help provide a better race not ruin it.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        7th April 2018, 12:14


        I know you said 5th ish but he can’t start 5th, that is for certain. 1st position dropped back by 5 places is 6th. Just saying :D If he ends up changing his set-up to suit the race better, he may well qualify behind Bottas. After all, Bottas did manage to beat Hamilton in qualifying here last year. And the Ferrari’s may well be very strong too. I’d say Hamilton is probably more likely to start 7th or 8th. But yes, that should make it more interesting.

  22. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    7th April 2018, 14:02

    If he starts with 5 grid penalty, will Hamilton have to push the engine to pass the Red Bulls and Ferraris? Is that something he’ll be willing to risk so early in the season as it may result in another penalty?

    This is serious stuff that you literally need Jean Todt and Charlie Whiting sweating over. It’s the 2nd race of the season and we already saw Lewis conserve the engine in the 1st race and now he might have to do the same in the 2nd race.

    I know that ESPN got the F1 coverage for free in the US. Are they at least going to reimburse all the ticket holders who go to watch the races? The sport should be free to watch at this point or at least it should depend on the race.

    But kudos to all the people who have eliminated testing and added parc ferme and reduced the number of engines.

    They may not have successfully reduced the costs of F1 by 1 single cent but they have for sure sucked the fun out of it!!! God job guys!!!

    May I suggest some improvements before I drink my morning coffee that F1 desperately needs? Here are a few:

    2 drivers per vehicle! (the safety savings are immense as you have redundancy and can spare 1 driver)
    Square tyres (they are probably cheaper to manufacture and last longer – I’m sure the FIA will prove that)
    An aeroscreen to protect scratches on the Halo (this one is absolutely obvious, I wonder why they didn’t think of it)
    DRS on the front wings – this one works when the rear DRS is not in effect. Ferrari will be the only team that can use double DRS!!!
    DRS on the helmets – sorry, I just wanna see what they come up with :-)

  23. Chuck Lantz
    7th April 2018, 20:22

    Since the drive-train is made of directly connected heat-conductive materials, engine heat is transferred to the gearbox to a certain extent, though design efforts are made to limit it as much as possible.

    And since every heat producing part is designed to operate within extremely limited heat tolerances, even relatively slight overheating in one component can damage any of the connected components.

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