Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2018

“Really strange” wind direction change caused Hamilton’s costly lock-up

2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton said a sudden change of wind direction caused the lock-up which ruined his pursuit of Sebastian Vettel during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The lock-up at turn on lap 22 cost Hamilton vital time as he was trying to get close enough to Vettel to attack him through the first round of pit stops.

Hamilton described how he had begun to catch the Ferrari when he went off.

“Ferrari starts quicker, they seem to get their tyres switched on better, [they] pulled out a 2.2 seconds lead of something like that. And all of a sudden [my] car started to work a little bit better and I started to rein him in.

“I got it down to about 2.2 or something at one point and it was looking good. And I was thinking if I stay on this trajectory, because the car was getting better those four or five laps, I was going to catch him.

“Then I had this lock-up and I was completely baffled with what happened. Normally when I go upstairs [to the engineers] they say it’s just a mistake or something like that.”

The Mercedes driver experienced a sudden shift in wind direction from a 25kph headwind to a 15kph tailwind.

“It was really strange,” said Hamilton. “I hit the brakes, the car was working, and then all of a sudden the wheels just locked. The car must have unloaded or whatever.

“That was frustrating because I think I’d driven pretty well up until that point and after that it was a bit of a struggle.”

Valtteri Bottas then became a threat to Hamilton’s position by staying out on his first set of tyres.

“I was battling with Valtteri who was in my pit stop window and then not in my pit stop window. I was unsafe then safe, had traffic, tailwind…

“It was probably the most difficult race that I can remember having. All the wind particularly really made it the toughest race. Close to a wet race, for example, you know how tricky those conditions can be. Very close to that, in dry conditions.”

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2018
2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in pictures
The race swung in Hamilton’s favour in the final laps when Vettel and Bottas hit trouble, handing him the victory. Hamilton said the win gave him a “humbling feeling” on a day when he hadn’t performed at his best.

“I came into yesterday thinking maybe third time lucky and it really was the case today. There was points in the race when I thought I might have the chance to win. And then I had the lock-up and I really [thought] that’s taken me out of the race and I [was] struggling afterwards with the tyres.

“But I was like keep going, kept telling myself keep pushing, don’t give up, something might happen. And it did.”

“It was really a reminder to me, not that I needed to reminding, my whole life I’ve been through experiences like today you’re climbing a hill and you keep slipping down. I’m going to get there. I remember my dad telling me never give up when I was really young and having that today. That affects all life when you’re trying to be successful. You try, you fail, and eventually you succeed.

“And today was sheer proof of that. Of course it was affected by other things but ultimately I don’t feel completely unworthy of the win, I still feel I drove pretty well during the race, it was just for me if my normal level is eagle, birdie, today was some pars on average and a couple of bogeys. And normally when I play golf it’s triple bogeys.”

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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 ““Really strange” wind direction change caused Hamilton’s costly lock-up”

  1. Bizarrely this was actually mentioned on the Channel 4 coverage live, which gave me a new respect for David Coulthard who was apparently keeping track of the cars on track, the timing screens and the direction the flags on the start/finish straight were blowing.

  2. Remember when Rosberg was caught out by a gust of wind roughly two and a half years ago, and half the world, including Hamilton, mocked him? I sure do.

    1. OK, I’ll admit I was one. Baku yesterday does seem to have been exceptional though.

      Hamilton seems to be in an even stranger state than the wind. Not just that he’s underperforming the past few race weekends, he appears heavily distracted and contemplative in his comments, mulling things over too much (for concentrating on the season anyhow). For me it’s still an open question if Ferrari and Bottas have improved a lot (relative to Mercedes and him separately) or Hamilton has fallen back (which explains both).

      1. @david-br I think it might be non-dominance-itis.

        1. @robbie Yes, probably a factor. A general complacency and lack of fight after too much dominance. Also the contract renewal and new regulations looming.

          1. @david-br If so, what I find ironic, although somewhat predictable, is that when he was dominating, and including last year, he was all about wanting and needing more competition. More challenge equals more reward for success in the end. Better for F1 etc etc. Easy to say when you comfortably have a win and Championship capable car. Where’s the ‘bring it on’ and the ‘this is great’ in him now? He seems happier to point out how strong Ferrari are this year, but not so happy to be challenged after all. Yet he could win the WDC this year, for there is tons of racing yet. I think he is in ‘pity me’ mode, which we have seen before.

        2. I do think Australia took the wind out of his sails more than it should have done, he bounced back from being the only Mercedes engine to retire (on lap 1 no less) in 2014 after all the fuss about the new formula.

          Australia he beat the faster Ferrari’s by 7 tenths though, that is absolutely mighty and yes they were faster, just look at the speed traps and subsequent races. The Ferrari has more power, better on its tyres and a team dedicated to sacrificing 1 driver for another, that is a lot for anyone to overcome.

          Hopefully this win will put the fire back in him because honestly, as much as he was robbed in Australia, he was gifted in this one so it’s equal.

      2. I think this who’s under performing thing is getting blown out of proportion a bit.

        In Australia he was flawless and very unlucky not to win.

        Bahrain he had a grid drop which we’ll never know if it impacted his qualifying setup. Even if it didn’t, Bahrain is a track he’s not been great at before. In the race his pace was solid, better than Bottas in the final stint closing a 17 second gap down to just 5. He was kept out too long on the first stint which cost him at least 3 seconds a lap for three laps too. Had he pitted earlier he could have been right there. To be honest I don’t see this as a bad result.

        China was where he underperformed. In qualifying he wasn’t far off Bottas but we all expect him to be infront. In the race his pace was quite poor.

        Baku he does a solid qualifying to get second which is likely the best he could have done. His race pace was good in the first stint as he was matching Vettel and dropping Bottas. His lock up really cost him and the pace wasn’t there in the second stint but everyone was struggling on those tyres. Bottas was still pulling away from Vettel for example.

        Overall it’s only China where he under performed and there he was only 0.05 behind Bottas in qualifying.

        1. I agree it’s marginal. The team philosophy of safe over aggressive race strategy and tactics (conservation mode) cost them in the first three races too. Had those potential wins been converted, he and Mercedes would be well ahead. But there’s something in the idea that Hamilton is either on or off, and his off mode is evident in these kinds of results, relatively poor qualifying, behind his team mate, and/or nondescript races. He’s just said as much about Baku. Australia he was fine, any slump came after.

        2. I think it’s an urban myth

      3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        30th April 2018, 14:55

        @david-br yeah, I think others have also mentioned that Lewis looks different – he even has a totally different hairdo:-)

        It’s not just him, though. The sport is feeling “old” now – I think the Halos actually serve as a visual representation of what’s wrong with the sport and they’ve literally crowned the cars with the problems.

        They want extra safety, yet Vettel is allowed to hit a car twice in a race and one collision was intentional. Yesterday’s safety start was a violation of the rules and Hamilton asks about it and Charlie shuts him down.

        Verstappen is literally racing with a different set of regulations – he’s practically not in F1. Hamilton is looking at that and scratching his head cause he nearly lost a WDC over a questionable decision.

        I personally get the feeling that F1 has wondered into the territory of Game of Thrones more than racing.

        You also have 3 out of 4 races decided by safety cars which makes the front runners wonder why they should bother qualifying and gaining an advantage when it’s all meaningless. The VSC debacle was a terrible thing to have to witness in any era of F1 and it goes against every core principle of racing. Everyone maintains position except one driver (whoever that person is) who can jump from P3 to P1 with a free set of tyres – you cannot advance in F1 and win races.

        There’s definitely a spark that’s missing from him.

        1. Also what really irritated me at Baku, Verstappen immediately chasing the position he gave back, which I thought had been officially barred after it became the unregulated excuse at Spa 2008 for ruining an epic battle between Raikkonen and Hamilton. No problem if they want to relax rules, but it needs to be official, not made up on the spot when questioned by those sticking to the rules. I agree there’s a real amateurism at some levels of the sport, including race direction. Another incident was the long amount of time before calling out a SC for the Verstappen-Ricciardo collision, with both cars sat still on the middle of the track.

      4. He may be second-guessing himself. Australia, which seemed to be a dead cert for Hamilton to win just blew away from him– even if he consciously knows it wasn’t anything he did, there’s got to be that little voice saying “You blew it!”.

    2. @nase You read my mind. Or perhaps I read yours.

      1. There’s some massive differences between the two incidents though.

        In Rosbergs case I can’t recall any mention of the wind from another driver. It wasn’t a main talking point as it was in Baku. Rosberg was also so quick to blame the wind and didn’t take any blame for it personally. Hamilton on the other-hand mentioned it was his mistake directly after the race in a few different interviews. He seems to be explaining it in more detail now so maybe he’s telling the truth ? If he originally thought it was his mistake and said so several times then what’s the point in backtracking ? To me it just seems like he’s seen more data on it and has explained that.

        We’ve seen him make mistakes before when pushing and he was catching Vettel at the time so I’d guess he just braked a bit later than the previous lap which with the added tailwind then pushed him much wider. It’s still his mistake but that doesn’t mean the wind didn’t also play a part.

        1. @Tim Well he did say it was a ‘strange’ wind change, and nothing excludes Nico from having had the same thing happen. I seem to recall wind was an issue that day for all the drivers, and just because Nico may have been less vocal about it (perhaps he didn’t want to sound like he was making an excuse) doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

        2. @Tim

          “Rosberg was also so quick to blame the wind and didn’t take any blame for it personally”

          That’s not how I remember it. Rosberg was very confused and didn’t try to take blame away from himself. It was like he didnt want to believe it could have been a gust of wind. He wouldn’t have mislead the team into putting precious man hours into an investigation.

    3. I was going to say the same thing. The internet often accuses drivers of lying to their teams without realising the work the teams will have to put in to finding the cause according to the drivers info.

    4. Does anyone also remember how a random Merc mechanical issue like a tyre failure means there’s a conspiracy theory working against one of their drivers? (according to this site at least)

      I haven’t noticed any tinfoil hats yet for some reason either… I wonder what the difference is?

      1. The difference is the driver in question. Bottas, unlike Hamilton or Vettel, doesn’t inspire polarizing views, and is hence a non-entity as far as conspiracy theories go.

    5. Fair enough, mock Hamilton. Who cares

  3. A gust of wind, eh?

    1. Yeah like when you riding into a wind, rather than against it, makes it harder to peddle /s

    2. It was very odd though. It was blowing hard up the straight pretty consistently and then suddenly changed direction as Hamilton started braking.

    3. If he were the only guy complaining about the wind, then it would sound strange.
      But others did say the same.

  4. SparkyAMG (@)
    30th April 2018, 13:10

    A gust of wind. I literally had a little giggle to myself.

    Although, I’ve skimmed through his comments a couple of times and can’t actually see him quoted on blaming the wind… just that the car ‘unloaded’ whilst braking. Is wind being assumed as the culprit or did Hamilton / someone else confirm that elsewhere?

    1. Don’t you know it is impossible for the infallible, God-like, Senna-esque, Hamilton to make any mistakes? Anything that goes wrong is blamed on his mechanics, team mate, (ex)girlfriend… He doesn’t need to say it, as Croft, or Edwards, will say it for him.

    2. It was mentioned on Channel 4s live coverage as they noticed the flag at the end of the straight suddenly dropping as hamilton braked. It had previously been consistently blowing up the straight.

      1. Some around here likely think Whiting turned off the wind at that particular instance.

      2. SparkyAMG (@)
        30th April 2018, 17:18

        I was watching Channel 4s coverage as well and although I recall DC saying that he’d seen the flag was blowing in both directions (obviously not at the same time), but he was still only speculating that it was the wind that caused the lock up.

        I’m not disputing that it was the wind that contributed/caused the incident, but I get the impression that some RaceFans articles of late have been presenting ‘facts’ without a corresponding quote or source, and/or have been using a bit of creative licence between quotes to flesh out articles.

        It might be that the information is entirely accurate and has a reliable source even if it wasn’t Hamilton who provided it, but I’d prefer not to read speculative articles.

  5. Maybe Ericson hit him :-)

  6. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    30th April 2018, 14:36

    This is a bit strange. I so highly doubt that there wasn’t a sudden change of wind for any other driver on the grid at any point over every lap. Hamilton can say that it was due to this that he made a mistake, but I think the others delt with the windy conditions better in this instance if this was what caused it. The wind won’t just focus on Hamilton at that point.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      30th April 2018, 14:38

      This isn’t specifically against hamilton. I think it is always a bit much for any driver to blame the wind for a mistake unless it is clear that many drivers are having the same problem for the same reason.

      1. @thegianthogweed

        Well apparantly Verstappen’s subtle moves are being blamed for Riccairdo keeping his DRS open longer and losing downforce and braking power, maybe the wind affected that too.
        Or the cars have way way too sensitive aero for us to judge them so harshly.

  7. Looks like someone’s not #blessed

  8. Ericsson hit him.

    1. SparkyAMG (@)
      30th April 2018, 17:19


  9. Hamilton articles are always filled with salty people.
    He is leading the championship driving this badly… Can you imagine when he and Mercedes wake up? That’s the issue?

    1. He’s leading the championship due to circumstance and nothing else, when the Merc could win he lost the race due to the reason he’s leading it now.

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