Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2018

Hamilton’s engine was ‘one lap away from failure’

2018 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton’s power unit was “just about to break” at one stage during the Brazilian Grand Prix, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has revealed.

Hamilton complained several times about problems with his power unit on his radio during the race. Wolff credited the Mercedes High Performance Powertrains for finding a way to keep it running.

“We had such a horrible race today with the perfect end result with Lewis winning and us winning the constructors championship,” said Wolff.

“But I can tell you mid-race we got the information: ‘power unit failure imminent on Lewis’s car’. And the guys in the background, the HPP guys fixed it.

“God knows how you can fix hardware that is just about to break and make the car finish. So that race was just a nightmare until obviously the checkered flag came down and everything broke loose.”

Wolff described the moment he heard on the team’s radio the power unit was one lap away from failure.

“What I could hear – because I’m having about 10 channels open – on one of the meeting channels was ‘Lewis Hamilton power unit failure imminent – it’s gonna fail within the next lap.’ And I said ‘excuse me, what?’

“And they said we have a massive problem on the power unit and it’s going to fail next lap. It didn’t fail next lap, and I said when you guys have a minute, let them work, [then] tell me what what’s happening.

“They said ‘well, our exhaust is just about to fail’ and we’re over-shooting all the temperature limits as to what’s to fix and so they started to fix it turning the whole thing down. And then the stage temperatures went down to below a thousand, 980, but it’s still too high. Then he recovered another lap. That was truly horrible.”

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Author information

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’s engine was ‘one lap away from failure’”

  1. Toto Wolff gas-revealed? Or Toto Wolff-Gas revealed? Or Toto Wolff, GAS revealed, leading to a rumored Merc-Honda collaboration?

  2. Oh what a disaster race for Merc. And in the middle of this horrific slump. GMAFB.

  3. They probably don’t put a large amount of money in these engines at the end of this season.

    1. Considering most of them have upgrades come at the end of the season to kick of the development for next seasons winter testing rounds where the winter shut down prevents them working to the degree they want…you’d be wrong. Not sure what led you to this conclusion @piekoster

  4. Is this anything to do with the smoke we saw in qualifying?

    1. I’m wondering that myself.

  5. So, HAM will take a penalty for a new engine at the last race? His Mexico engine was also dying and the previous one is already disposed..?!

    1. [tin hat] No they have several Mercedes drivers to benefit from on track. So no problem for mercedes.
      They will take out the competition on request.

      1. Just a paper hat required for that comment.

      2. Clown, I won’t say anymore.

      3. Verstappens fault, once again he didn’t leave enough space. One day he’ll learn ….. probably.

        1. I think it’s fair to say, he learnt yesterday.

  6. Huge battle.. Disaster.. Weak.. Problems.. I don’t believe any of this kind of talk from Toto. They KNOW they have the best overall package 90% of the time the last 4 years. All this self-deprecating modesty gets a bit old!

  7. Bullcrap! I don’t believe anything he says.

    1. That’s all right. I believe you’re a bot, and therefore easily ignored. ;)

  8. Stick to the program you guys, we’re talking about Lewis’ engine here,
    All this talk about Max and Esteban is just distracting everybody from eh Lewis and Seb show, :)

  9. Can we play Captions with this photo please ?

    “now where did I stash that magnetic spare key holder”


    tough crowd,

    1. @greg-c – Eh, just a one-word caption: #blessed

    2. 28 … 29 … 30 … ok I’m coming to find and catch up with you now, and I’m going to be using the car.

  10. “The championship is far from over*”, “Hamilton’s engine was one lap away from failure”

    My take on this is that Toto Wolff could watch a freshly painted wall dry and then tell a story of how everything was constantly on the verge of absolute disaster.

    * I’m fairly certain he’s having a hard time resisting the urge to keep using that phrase now

    1. Toto has been doing this 2015, to be honest. Before Australia that year, he said Vettel and Ferrari would be a threat and he finished 40 secs behind them. Of course, his words came true in the next race when Vettel beat both Mercs through strategy and overtaking but he has a tendency to over exaggerate things.

    2. I think catastrophizing is just kind of part of the German/Austrian psyche. Certainly has been in my experience. :p

      1. Can’t confirm. Complaining constantly, yes. Dramatising and downright catastrophising minor-scale (non)events? Not so much. The general rule is understatement, at least where I’m from.

        Don’t know about Austrians, though.

  11. For a guy who doesnt have a ride next year, I would think Ocon would be kissing up to anybody and everybody. Learn from Alonso, you never know where your next paycheck is coming from.

    1. His next paycheck is coming from Mercedes. So him taking out Max will not harm his career too much i would suspect.

  12. It’s the wrong nationality, and it’s the driver not the team principal, but this reminds me so much of the classic Fry and Laurie F1 bit.

    1. This has influenced everyone involved in F1 today, I think. Raikkonen being the prime example, as all he wants to talk about is how things could have been better.

  13. Ok some good info in there. Mercedes engine can reach 1000 Celsius. But needs to drop bellow 980 to not fail on the next lap.

    1. You mean if we hold a race on the Sun we will break the merc Domination as they will fail within a lap as they Won’t get below 980?

      But seriously this again Sounds like to-car telemetry which should be illegal right..?

      1. Sounds like it, @mrboerns.

        As I suspected last race when Max was wrestling with gremlins. But, Keith stated they told Max what settings to change. Perhaps Merc did the same remote telemetry tweak by radio to Lewis.

        We’ll find out when the complete radio transcripts are released on iTunes/Play as the Greatest F1 Hits of 2018. Liberty needs to monetize every little piece of F1. ;-)

    2. @jureo not that it really matters, but this will be exhaust gas temp – rather coolant or oil temp – so not engine temp per se

      1. Correct. Still an awesome piece of info.

  14. RebelAngelFloyd (@)
    12th November 2018, 6:29

    Max should have paid more respect to WDC Hamilton; he shouldn’f have passed HAM.
    Good for HAM that Ocon is still on the Mercedes paylist….

    1. Verstappen doesn’t know how to give room, he failed the basics of racing.

  15. Given the WCC is secured, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran a fresh engine in Abu Dhabi.

    1. (@panagiotism-papatheodorou) Why not? No point in saving it till next yr.

  16. Every time Max passes Lewis in the race, he has some lame excuses afterwards. It’s a pattern already and the 2019 season didn’t even start yet.

    1. You realize Mercedes talked among themselves about it in the race right and that they actually had to tone it down?

      And if there is a technical failure then it’s the team’s own fault. F1 is not just about drivers, it’s about the engineering.

  17. Does anyone know more about those rumours that Mercedes were helping Honda with their engine?
    With Verstappen having the beating of Hamilton, things look promising for next season except a dodgy agreement between Honda and a company who’s alrready been charged for price fixing and being investigated for emissions cheating elsewhere in the industry. And Mercedes had the cheek to say Alonso was dodgy.

  18. “…Verstappen having the beating of Hamilton…” – Now that is something i still need to see…

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