Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2019

Mercedes repairs could have stopped Hamilton taking part in Canadian Grand Prix

2019 F1 Season

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Mercedes have said that a hydraulic leak on Lewis Hamilton’s car, identified before the Canadian Grand Prix, could have stopped the championship leader from starting the race.

Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, said that the repairs to a hydraulic leak were only identified after Parc Ferme which meant the team was under time pressure to remove and replace Hamilton’s whole power unit before the race start –

“We had some issues with Lewis’s car before the race and this actually became apparent after Qualifying. We dropped the floor, we noticed there was some oil on the floor so somewhere there was a leak. We could also see on the data we were losing some hydraulic pressure.

“Now, the issue is that the cars are then in Parc Ferme overnight, we are not allowed to touch them or to investigate it further. So, that investigation moved to Sunday morning, when we are allowed to access the cars again, the mechanics can work on them. We had to take the Power Unit out. We traced the leak to the throttle actuator, and then we made a request to the FIA to change the throttle actuator and some of the associated hydraulics.

“So, that work was quite a big job though, there’s a lot to do within that. And it was pretty tight to get Lewis’s car back together for the start of the race.”

Although the team were confident they had identified the actuator issue, the risk was that there could be another problem – or that removing the power unit and re-installing it under time pressure would compromise fire-up and mean Hamilton would have been unable to start the race.

“The issue when you have an unknown fault or a leak is you don’t know how long it is going to take you to find it, to identify it. We were able to get the car back together.

“Where we were at risk was if we then fired up and we found another problem, if the engine had to come out again, that’s when we would’ve got short on time and perhaps not even been able to start the race.

“But, it was a great job by all the mechanics involved and quite happily the car was back together in time and finished the race successfully.”

Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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22 comments on “Mercedes repairs could have stopped Hamilton taking part in Canadian Grand Prix”

  1. #StillIRace

    1. For a record-extending 236th consecutive time. Would have been his first ever non-start in F1 had the team not fixed the issue (which I’m sure many a neutral/Ferrari fan wouldn’t have minded!)

  2. We traced the leak to the throttle actuator, and then we made a request to the FIA to change the throttle actuator and some of the associated hydraulics.

    Is there truth to the story that the replacement part was of a different spec, and that the FIA couldn’t prove it actually gave them an advantage, so the FIA dropped the matter?

    1. Here you go https://mobile.twitter.com/tgruener/status/1138341923394113537?s=19&utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=ios_share_flow_optimization&utm_term=enabled

      I’m sure someone will follow up this comment with an argument about the difference in the definition of “similar in design, inertia and function” and the word “identical” .

      But oh well. Such are the times. 😂

      1. Thanks for that tweet, @nesarajah

    2. Doesn’t matter, it’s Merc and Hamilton.

      1. Yep, only a great team like Mercedes could have done the work so quickly and successfully. You know Ferrari would have screwed up big big under the same circumstances.

        1. “big time”. Keith, when will you include an edit feature?

          1. Actually, “big big” works rather well. And if it does, and goes viral, we can all say that we were here when Green Flag coined it. … (Just in case, can I get your autograph now, to avoid the crowds?)

    3. @phylyp, since it has been raised, this is what the regulations actually say about replacing a part in parc ferme:

      “It must be clear that any replacement part a team wishes to fit is similar in design, mass, inertia and function to the original. Any parts removed will be retained by the FIA.”

      When you look at the parc ferme scruitineering reports, you will see that pretty much every single team will be changing components in parc ferme every single race weekend though. As it happens, only one race earlier in Monaco, Sainz had the entire hydraulics system for his engine replaced and all of the electrical sensors for the hydraulics system remapped whilst his car was in parc ferme.

      Unless we are going to have people also claiming that the FIA are favouring McLaren for letting them do much the same thing just one race earlier, it sounds as if what Mercedes did seems to be fairly standard practise and AMuS seem to have oversold the significance of the claim.

      1. Anon, thanks for that. As Kiran also pointed out above, both of your points make sense that we cannot expect truly identical hardware, and must reasonably satisfy ourselves with a duck test.

        I’m not sure why that narrative had gained this much traction (duh, I do know – Hamilton and the dominant Mercedes!), but having seen it mentioned elsewhere, I was curious if there was any meat to it. Good to see there isn’t, one controversy a race weekend is probably one too many.

        1. @phylyp, I would agree that the only reason why this seems to have gained any interest in the first place is because it involved Mercedes and because it occurred on a weekend where there was more controversy around the race – otherwise, the press normally just ignore the changes unless it involves a part that could earn a penalty (i.e. a gearbox or power unit component).

          I suppose the only other way that something like this might have been brought up would have been if Ferrari had done something similar to Vettel’s car, simply because of the increased attention that there would have been around him. Again, though, I suspect that there probably would have been a lot of fuss about something that was rather pointless to get worked up about.

    4. Of course the parts were different, one was broken, the other working. F1 cars are in constant development, so the replacement parts may have been an old and used version or the next upgrade. Neither version would be significantly different as they would need to fit straight into place. The FIA doesn’t check every part put on a car and no hydraulic component is likely to give such greater performance that it would ensure a race win.

      Niki Lauda would have called the rumour “Bull” and he’d have been right.

  3. Perfect timing. At least we will be spared the usual suspects demanding that Ham be penalized for not crossing a T or dotting an I. In the new spirit of ‘relaxed rules and the show must come first’ of course.

  4. Why waste time and energy writing about something that didn’t happen?

    1. An interesting article none the less – informative about the processes and decisions.

      Leave your negativity elsewhere.

  5. Bravo, German efficiency, what’s new?

    1. Delivered from the German towns of Brackley and Brixworth…

  6. “We could also see on the data we were losing some hydraulic pressure.”

    This means Hamilton managed to qualify dispite this hydraulic issue.

  7. Yes of course the efforts of the team is totally amazing. But I still cannot help thinking, stop feeding us with this “we’re so luck, we didnt think we could win, Ferrari have the faster car, we’re not sure we can compete.”

    Also Hass would like to say boo hoo.

  8. There were also still bleeding the brakes a few minutes before take off. Impressive team work.

  9. Shame that the miraculous effort on the part of the Merc crew, an eleventh-hour fix to a very complex issue, to ensure this car could excel on a punishing track like a hot Circuit Gille Villeneuve is so heavily overshadowed by the farcical penalty incurred by VET…

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