Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit of the Americas, 2018

Hamilton sees many reasons for Mercedes’ Austin struggle

2018 United States Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton believes a combination of factors explain why he wasn’t able to convert pole position into victory in the United States Grand Prix.

In response to a question from RaceFans, Hamilton said one of them was a last-minute change of water pump on his car on Sunday morning.

“You saw the car was in a million pieces this morning so it wasn’t ideal for the race,” he said. “Probably if we hadn’t had to have a morning like that our race outcome would have been a bit different.”

Mercedes changed drivers’ fuel pumps after discovering a problem on Valtteri Bottas’s car. The team’s data indicated a potential problem on Hamilton’s car too.

However Hamilton said there were other reasons why the balance of power swung in Ferrari’s favour.

“I think they gained some pace and we lost some. I’ve asked them to go and dig, find out why. But then there’s more on top of that, that we’ve just been talking about.

“Plus in the race for example there was some debris, some damage on the floor, all these different things add up through the race. There was a couple of tenths from floor damage. Everyone else maybe had the same thing.

“And then we had another problem which, we don’t know how much time that was.”

Hamilton was forced to make a second pit stop when he encountered blistering on his rear tyres. He said the team wasn’t expecting to have to pit twice.

“Today an outlier was that we didn’t have great pace and we had worse tyre usage than everyone else which is rarely ever the case.

“I think we were forced into a two-stop race for certain things that we had that weren’t ideal with the car. We didn’t know that was going to be the case when we got into the race. It was a real struggle. The car was a real handful today.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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43 comments on “Hamilton sees many reasons for Mercedes’ Austin struggle”

  1. My inner sceptical cynic/cynical sceptic, is battling not to suggest this result wasn’t a fix!!
    Can you all imagine the severe disinterest in F1, if LH had secured the WDC this weekend?

    The Fat Lady Will Sing in Mexico?
    Maybe? But hold on “we” are adjusting the “script” to maintain a higher level of global interest in F1!!!!

    The Magic continues! Not one comment regarding F1 being BORING at all, on the couple of forums I follow!
    That does make my day & cheers me on!

    1. ‘Can you all imagine the severe disinterest in F1, if LH had secured the WDC this weekend?’

      No. My interest is not dependant on a title being won. It happens every year in most sports that have a long season. Somebody has to win. Haven’t you worked that one out yet?

    2. If anything think all the fans were hoping for the opposite and that Lewis was going to win the title in Austin.

      This would leave the politics of 1-2 drivers off the grid and the top 6 are properly free to race in pretty evenly matched cars

    3. @wildbiker Why would they script him not winning the title in America to then win it in Mexico, given that Liberty want to appeal to the American crowd so much. It would arguably be better for the sport if he won it there. If Lewis retires in the next 2 races so the title goes down to the wire, then we can talk about scripting.

  2. Bottas had fuel pump issue but why change water pump on Lewis’s car?
    The extra down force on Mercedes causes the tyre blister? Saw some RF fans already predicted prior to the race…

    1. Maybe the “water pump” was a miss quote from Lewis, the article says his fuel pump was changed as a precaution after the problem was found on VB’s car.

    2. The team’s data indicated a potential problem on Hamilton’s car too.

      That’s the reason for the change. They might be monitoring coolant pressures, and – as an example – any fluctuations in pressure could indicate unwanted oscillations in the pump, indicating bearing/shaft problems.

    3. If the pumps were identical manufacture (material batch etc) and they had access too a different batch of pumps then it makes sense to swap both if there looks like a problem.

    4. Bottas had an issue with his water pump, not fuel

      1. Am I missing something here, the article clearly says in paragraph 4 that they changed the “fuel” pumps om both cars.

        1. Typo….plain as can be.

  3. Hm, to me it seemed that with hindsight it was probably wrong to focus on wanting to nail the championship here. Had they given Hamilton the instruction to let those soft tyres come in more slowly, instead of pushing them right away, they might have actually lasted to the flag and he would have been ahead.
    Alternatively, when they were pushing them right away, they should have clearly committed to a two stopper and stopped Hamilton before he dropped behind both Verstappen and Bottas. That cost so much time that he never had a chance of a go at Kimi for the lead.

    1. I don’t think the tyres were going to make it regardless of how Hamilton drove. The tyres had gone on Bottas’ car as well (look at the gap to Vettel at the end) And he pitted significantly after Hamilton

      1. Yes, quite likely @burden93, that is where the alternative i mentioned – fully embracing a 2 stopper – comes in.

        1. Yep, indeed @bascb – looking forward to James Vowles explaining in their after the race video thingy they also left Hamilton out too long while suffering lack-of-blue flag response backmarkers. Not to suggest he was alone in losing over 7s from that, just that at the time, he couldn’t afford it, like later after pitstops Raikkonen could since both Verstappen and Hamilton behind him also had to get through them more or less the same time, and thus it was annoying and put Kimi under pressure, but didn’t change his strategy.

        2. @bascb exactly, certainly at the point where Kimi and Max started taking huge chunks of time out of the lead. What was the game plan at this point? Why did he have to lose 10+ seconds before they realised the tyres weren’t going to hold up and track position was no match for the difference in pace to his pursuers?

          1. yeah, it looked like they were still stuck on hoping the tyres could be managed to make it to the finish line and that is where they lost the crucial time and track position (to Max)

  4. After Kimi’s stop, the gap to Lewis remained stable at 17s and then began dropping drastically once blisters started to appear on Lewis rear right and then the left. Its a wonder how they lost the race–almost as if they threw it away. Ofcourse , as he mentions, the car wasn’t perfect today. Lewis is supposed to be too good on the tyres but Lewis and Merc weren’t able to hold on to those softs for long unlike Vettel or even Kimi.
    Is it because he pushed too hard on those softs trying to catch up with Kimi ? But even after two pitstops, he was just a couple of seconds away from the lead–yes, he was able to push on with a fresher set but shows how good the Mercedes is.
    I though it was a fantastic race even with those two disqualifications.

    1. @webtel The soft tire is very blister-prone nowadays, especially when they are being pushed hard on early on. Hamilton basically gained 10 seconds or so by pitting during the VSC, so there was no need for him to push hard. The tires held quite well until lap 31 or so, but then suddenly his pace dropped as if he had hit the cliff.
      Had Hamilton managed to overtake Räikkönen before Räikkönen’s first stop, they could have pitted simultaneously to secure Hamilton’s lead.

      1. @f1infigures

        The tires held quite well until lap 31 or so, but then suddenly his pace dropped as if he had hit the cliff.

        This is the part that baffles me. He was in clean air most of the time and yet lost a great deal of time. How did he get to that cliff ?
        Merc post a video on their strategy after each race. It might have some clear cut answers.

        1. @webtel The strategy video will be interesting indeed. Hamilton is usually very good at making the tires last, especially when he is leading, so his early stop shouldn’t have been much of a problem. After all, his tires were only about 10 laps older than those of his rivals. It’s the sudden blistering of the tires that likely caught them out.

          1. Good talking between the two of you @webtel @f1infigures Especially the VER-fans could learn a thing or two from U2.
            I’ve been making some same observations as you. Also, BOT did not have the same cliff-hitting experience HAM had, suggesting it isn’t a general issue Merc has with managing those softs.

        2. But he put the softs on lap 11 while his car was still heavy and, despite that, he pushed like crazy to catch Kimi. I think that was why he ate his tyres in just 26 laps.
          On the other side of the garage, BOT put the softs on lap 23 and was able to race 33 laps and get to the finish line with his tyres with very little left, but still in better shape than HAM’s 26 laps old tyres on lap 37.

  5. I fail to see how the strategists would have been affected by a water pump change. Yes, the driver, his engineer, pit crew (a.k.a. mechanics) etc. would definitely not have been most comfortable with such a late change, but the strategists? Those boffins looking at rows and columns of numbers?

    1. Maybe they already started reducing staff in preparation for the 2023 budget and all staff left had to step up and help fix those cars @phylyp ; otherwise: huh indeed!

      1. @bosyber – indeed :-)

  6. the main struggle for Merc was VER, who drove a great race and got in there among the leaders. If it were only RAI in front, i think Lewis would have eventually gone by (like he did in Monza), as he is less concerned with the fin making all-or-nothing defensive moves.

    Hamilton could have passed VER if he went full attack mode, but i believe Max’s reputation has started to creep in and Lewis though better of it (especially after seeing what happened to Vettel after his fight with Max in Suzuka).

    1. Hamilton could have passed VER if he went full attack mode, but i believe Max’s reputation has started to creep in and Lewis though better of it (especially after seeing what happened to Vettel after his fight with Max in Suzuka)

      I agree. Nevermind Suzuka, but think of Singapore 2017. Why take unnecessary risks and risk a DNF with Vettel behind. Hamilton would have looked like a clown if he clashed with Max and failed to finish gifting Vettel P3/P2. Then there would be more pressure not just on Lewis but the team and when that happens, more often than not, mistakes are made.

      1. …gifting Vettel P3/P2

        that would even be P1 if Lewis and Max would have both retired or suffered punctures, that’s becuase in front there was RAI who would have surely stepped aside for VET.

        1. Precisely, +1

        2. Kimi hasnt really been “stepping aside” since Germany…. did he know back then that they werent renewing his contract or had he just had enough?

    2. i believe Max’s reputation has started to creep in and Lewis though better of it

      @gechichan – probably yes and no, to this. Hamilton had no qualms about executing that surgical overtake on Vettel at Sochi, despite Vettel’s recent clumsy racing. However, I think that Hamilton adapted to the open nature of the COTA track to attempt a cautious overtake, and ran off safely when it didn’t stick.

  7. Think the problem was they set the car up with more downforce from friday.When you look at how fast in the wet they where compared to Ferrari,this would explain the slow straight line speed and extra tyre wear

  8. Merc and Ferrari back the wrong Drivers. one could not pass max or Kimi in a slower car and slower tyre and the other spins every other weekend.

    1. @f1fan-2000 – given Hamilton’s overall imperious performances this year, I wouldn’t say Mercedes are backing the wrong driver. Even in Ferrari’s case, Vettel is the more successful and generally faster driver (Kimi’s good, but he blows hot and cold on different weekends). Vettel’s been up to it for a good part of the season, and its only in the last few months that things started to go awry and cascade for him.

    2. @f1fan-2000 Can we keep things in perspective please. Max started on new softs after ruining his car in qualy riding the kerbs. The rest were on worn supersofts. While Max’s form has picked up least we forget he had an awful start to the season filled with mistakes and collisions. He wouldn’t be winning the championship with performances like that at the start of the season. Hamilton is a 4 time. Vettel is a 4time champ. Max has never been tested in a WDC pressure situation. Vettel and Hamilton have. Also HAM is about to win a 5th world championship. I don’t think Merc have anything to be concerned about.

    3. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      22nd October 2018, 15:59

      @f1fan-2000 you must be Finnish to come up with such a ridiculous statement.

      1. But… in order to finish 1st you must first be Finnish… ;)

  9. Someone above mentioned Mercedes letting Ferrari win in order to give legitimacy to the championship.

    It did feel a little like Malaysia 2015 where Vettel came out of nowhere to win after Mercedes dominated the start of the season in much the same way as 2014. It’s possible.

    The main factor that hurt Mercedes was probably the lack of dry running on Friday. They didn’t get their setup right. Generally this year it’s been the Ferrari that has struggled with tyre wear not Mercedes.

    Hammy seemed to struggle with his race craft. Raikkonen and Verstappen drove very well keeping the quicker Mercedes behind them.

    Generally Hammy is able to blast past opponents halfway through a DRS zone such is his power advantage.

    It’s not often that he’s forced to employ some race craft in order to outwit opponents going into and out of corners.

    Interesting to see the result.

  10. My god, the arrogance. Just look at the lap times he was doing after his 2nd stop and at Vettel’s times after his stop. Both on softs, both free to push to the end. Vettel was doing 1.38’s, Hamilton was doing 1.37’s. Saying they didn’t have the best car at this track is just insulting. Ferrari just lucked out with the strategy because nobody thought they did the right thing not pitting RAI under the VSC at the time.
    HAM would’ve easily won if he could pass people faster, or at all. He was 2 sec faster than RAI and still couldn’t pass him. He was afraid to get near him because he is a coward. You could also see it late when he tried to pass VER. You could fit 3 cars between HAM and VER when he “tried” to pass him. Say what you want about VET, at least he’s no coward.

    1. A coward? Isn’t Hamilton one of the most aggressive drivers? It didn’t seem that cowardly when he drove around the outside of your beloved Vettel at Monza.

      Plus if you watched the race you’d have seen how the Merc blistered it’s tyres unlike the other cars, going some way to explain the loss of pace, not to mention dirty air, etc.

      I don’t understand these kind of comments at all!! Baffling.

      1. Didn’t call him a coward in general. His racecraft this year has been the best in his career and I watched him from day1. Called him one for today because he didn’t want to fight with Raikkonen when he was on brand new softs and RAI was on old old Ultras. He passes RAI on first try, builds a little gap then he can pit a 2nd time and still come out ahead or very close behind. Called him one today because he himself admitted to giving Verstappen way way too much space when he tried to pass him.
        He has already won this title and fighting harder for a win (something he said always wants to do because it’s in his DNA to win races) should’ve been a no-brainer. Everyone watching deserved to see some wheel to wheel action between him and VER. Show us how to pass him, unlike Vettel who crashes into him :)). But today his DNA was made of chicken. :)

  11. It was fascinating to watch Hamilton look for the move on Max without putting any trust in the other driver, and also amusing to see how much space he left around Max, there was no need to take any risks at all for that pass, finishing ahead of Vettel was all he needed to now only require five points from three races to wrap up the WDC. Yesterday’s race was not one for gung-ho heroics for Hamilton.

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