How Hamilton missed vital chance to pit when others came in

2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton’s efforts to salvage a decent points haul from 15th on the grid were undone when he missed a vital opportunity to pit during a Virtual Safety Car window.

Mercedes team radio messages indicate Hamilton did not hear the initial instruction to come into the pits. The call was repeated, to which Hamilton replied “too late” after he had already passed the pit lane entrance.

Having missed his opportunity to come in, the entrance to the pit lane was subsequently closed. Hamilton therefore had to wait three more laps to make his mandatory stop, by which time the VSC period had ended, meaning he lost more places than was necessary. Having worked his way up to sixth behind his team mate when the VSC period began, he ultimately finished the race in 10th.

The VSC period was triggered when Daniel Ricciardo came to a stop on the approach to the pit lane entrance. Fernando Alonso’s Alpine had also developed a problem and he was touring back to the pits at a greatly reduced speed.

Hamilton had been alerted to the situation and the team reminded him he was in his ‘VSC window’, and therefore should be ready to pit in the event one was triggered. He received his first instruction to pit – “box, box” – as he rounded the final corner, which he did not acknowledge:

Hamilton was told: “Box, box. Box, box. Keep an eye on the pit lane” at final corner

As Hamilton approached the pit lane entrance, where Ricciardo had come to a stop, he was told again to pit. This time he responded “too late” as he passed by the entrance to the pits.

35BonningtonAlonso has a car problem. Just a reminder, you are in your VSC and Safety Car window.
36BonningtonRicciardo has stopped just before the pit entry. Just reminder you are in VSC Car and Safety Car window. But be mindful, pit lane may close.
36HamiltonYou let me know man.
36BonningtonJust keep an eye on it. Roger.
36BonningtonSo box, box. Box, box. Keep an eye on the pit lane.
36HamiltonCar’s slowed down.
36BonningtonOkay box, box. Box, box.
37HamiltonAgh. It’s too late.
37BonningtonVSC, So VSC keep delta positive, the pit lane has closed.
37HamiltonSorry about that guys. I just…
37BonningtonDelta, delta.
37HamiltonThere was a car in the way.
37BonningtonJust that keep delta positive. Another car has stopped in the pit entry.
37BonningtonSo if you go to strat mode one. Just keep an eye on those pit lane boards. As soon as the pit lane opens, we are in. So pit lane still closed.

Two other drivers were in the same situation as Hamilton. Like him, Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg had started the race on hard tyres and had opted not to pit during the earlier Safety Car deployment. For them, the later VSC period was a golden opportunity to make a low-cost tyre change.

Magnussen, the next driver behind Hamilton some seven seconds back, made it in. By the time Hulkenberg arrived, Alonso’s Alpine was also crawling into the pits. Hulkenberg crossed the pit lane entry line in order to ensure he got into the pits:

Hulkenberg had to cut across the pit lane entry line to get in

Drivers ordinarily have to stay to the left of the white line when they enter the pits. However, the race director’s notes for the event specify exceptions can be made:

“For safety reasons drivers must keep to the left of the solid white line immediately prior to the pit entry when they are entering the pits.

“Except in the cases of force majeure (accepted as such by the stewards), the crossing by any part
of the car, in any direction, of the painted area between the pit entry and the track, by a driver who,
in the opinion of the stewards, had committed to entering the pit lane is prohibited.”

With one car stopped on the approach to the pits, and another driving in slowly, this seemingly qualified.

Did Hamilton fail to hear the original message to pit? Or did he hear it but decide out of an abundance of caution not to pit? RaceFans asked Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff why Hamilton seemed not to have responded to the initial call for him to pit.

“Obviously Alonso slowed down during the lap, Ricciardo broke down in the entry and we told him to come in,” Wolff explained. “But there was a double yellow, a car that’s slowing down, one stationary.

Start, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in pictures
“So it was just an overall confusing situation and he drove by, slowing down because of the confusion, and that made us come out behind Magnussen and obviously then it’s game over.”

Hamilton certainly had good reason to be circumspect as he approached the scene and could see Ricciardo standing up in the cockpit of his stationary car.

However, the team had advised him to be ready to pit and reminded him to be sure the pit lane entrance was open. Had he been as aware of the rules as Hulkenberg was, he should have felt confident to enter, though it bears pointing out the Aston Martin driver had a lot longer to consider his decision to pit.

Perhaps the memory of his experience at Monza in 2020 had a bearing. On that occasion he came in to a closed pit lane and picked up a hefty penalty as a result. Moreover, if he had watched Saturday’s Formula 2 sprint race, Dennis Hauger’s experience might have undermined Hamilton confidence in the enforcement of this area of the rules.

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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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46 comments on “How Hamilton missed vital chance to pit when others came in”

  1. I think he really had no choice here. Ricciardo stopped by the pit entry, but was the pit entry open? In hindsight, that should mean pit lane closed. But it’s a head scratch that many cars retired yesterday through mechanical issues. We only had 14 cars that finished. I don’t think this is the last though of those.

    1. Magnussen managed it fine under the exact same circumstances.

      Radio transcript shows he was told to box, didn’t follow up on the first and was too late by the time it was repeated. How is that no choice? It is simply an error (which happens)

  2. I don’t understand why he (and possibly others) doesn’t get a message via the steering wheel as well, whether a light or a message on the display panel to box. Relying completely on the driver hearing a spoken message from the pit lane seems risky given that the pit to car communications are not 100% reliable.

    1. I may be wrong, but I think that would count as pit-to-car telemetry, which is banned. The only comms allowed from pit to driver are through the radio.

    2. They are expected to ‘roger’/okay such messages.
      I thought that ‘pit this lap’ could be confirmed via the steering wheel as well.

      1. @jff car-to-pit signals are allowed. It’s pit-to-car ones that aren’t.

  3. Nothing lasts forever. Not even Mercs perfect strategies

    1. Kinda like they blew pitting at AD.

  4. Hamilton fan, but he does seem to sometimes be a bit sleepy in certain situations, not all the time but it feels like other drivers are more instinctive when knowing an opportunity it around. Due to my bad memory I don’t have any examples but I remember when Russell took the merc in Bahrain he seemed all over any possible safety car opportunity.

    1. It is all about timing and location. Any driver slightly behind by a few seconds has a better read of the situation and also more time by the team to notify them.

    2. I don’t think we can judge this action fairly without knowing the exact point where Hamilton was when he got each message. Drivers are usually asked to confirm they’ve received the call to box, Hamilton might have missed the first called, or he might just have doubted when he saw Ricciardo’s car, although Bono warned him. In any case it’s a quite different approach to the Hockenheim 2019 situation, where he didn’t hesitate to go into the pit (and we all know what happened there).

      1. @warheart we know exactly when he got each message. F1TV gives you video and audio in perfect sync. He got the first box call when he was coming out of the last corner, which left him with enough time.
        He was probably just a bit distracted with the whole situation.

        1. Its one thing to be told to box, the instructions should have been drive around the stationary cars and box.

          Coming out of that last corner all he would have seen is those two car sat on the approach to the pits, obviously blocking his view into the pit lane. He natuarally drove wide of the cars but his speed to pass them into the pits should have been much slower, which may have posed a danger for other cars coming out of that corner.

          The instruction to box didn’t acknowledge the circumstances. The pit would have known the situation a long time before Hamilton arrived on the scene.

          1. @Ajaxn sorry, but Magnussen and Hulkenberg made it in no issues, Hulkenberg even when Alonso had also stopped – crucially Alonso was even stopped in the pit lane when Ricciardo was halted before the pit lane.

            This is just passing blame to absolve Hamilton. The box call was timely and clear, the pit lane was unobstructed, Ricciardo was stopped before pit lane started and fully stationary. He could pit perfectly well, but didn’t.

        2. @mattds thanks for that! Then it looks like Hamilton’s fault, unless he somehow didn’t hear the box message. He had been warned he was in his VSC window and a car was stopped before the pit entry.

    3. I always felt that drivers drove with high awareness, instinct, and super quick reactions. They see a car going unexpectedly slow / wide etc they just go for the move as it is second nature. Anything else including thinking is too slow and leads to confusion as it is against their instincts.

      1. Both cars were behind him, so how will he see them going slowly.

        In all honesty I think they were gambling on a safety car or red flag

    4. That was my take in real time – he was processing the sight of the stopped car and blew it.
      Hamilton regularly parses box instructions – who wouldn’t lose absolute faith after Hungary?
      In this case, I guess he could see the car in the entry and didn’t know that the wall knew exactly where it was.

  5. Reminds me something….

  6. For every other driver the headline would be..
    “Hamilton screwed up big time ”
    Maybe a bit less shocking for the younger readers..
    He had apart of this stupid mistake a very mediocre drive.
    He won a lot of positions on his hard tire because he did not had to pit.
    He ended with three cars behind and started with four cars behind.
    No so great..but I may be a bit subjective :)

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      28th March 2022, 20:42

      Well, give the guy a break. He’s won every championship since 2014. Even last year, it took the FIA, Red Bull, a kamikaze Red Bull (Perez), and Hamilton still would have won it fair and square and lapped Verstappen in the same car.

      1. @freelittlebirds forgetting the fact that he first needed Bottas, himself and Pirelli to take out Max in order to win it, ahem, “fair and square”.

      2. won every championship since 2014.

        Tell that to some Nico guy

      3. Don’t forget the Silverstone attack on Max his life where he should have been black flagged. Without the help of Masi Hamilton would have lost the WC before the last race of 2021.

        1. Max took himself out in Silverstone, with his stubborn and overaggressive driving. Many drivers said it was a racing incident, and also the stewards didnt fully blame HAM for it.

          Monza was a clear assault by Max, as was Jeddah and Brazil (tough he didnt make it there to crash HAM out of the race).

          1. Is that the Monza incident where many drivers said it was a racing incident, and also the stewards didnt fully blame VER for it?

          2. Yes, that sounds like pot kettle black.

    2. RBR screwed up big time in Bahrain, with a massive loss of points. HAM just lost a few points as his car currently does not allow more than P5 at best. And he had some nice overtakes with a difficult car.

      1. You do know the difference between a team and a driver?
        Tip: the one using the steering wheel and listening to his engineer is the driver. They are both part of the team.
        So, this must be mind-blowing for you!!

        1. Maybe you should learn to read, before posting nonsense. I said RBR screwed up – you should know that RBR is a team. BTW: Is was a team decision to try different setups in qualy, in order to see how to bring some performance into the car. HAMs setup didnt work obviously.

  7. Or in other words: Hamilton dropped the ball.

    Pit were clearly open, as indicated by the signs near pit entry. They hadn’t done their stop yet…
    Pitting should have been the automatic response, even without any call by the team.

  8. A tangent perhaps, but I was surprised it took so long to close the pit entry after Ricciardo slowed there. It was clearly a dangerous situation and I thought race control were slow to respond. Had the pit entry been closed in a timely manner the question of Hamilton missing his opportunity wouldn’t have arisen.

    1. I’m not sure that’s a tangent. If the driver can’t see the pit entry light (and I couldn’t) then I can imagine Hamilton would be a bit skittish about repeating the Monza debacle.

      1. He was told to mind the pit lane boards, officially the “pit entry status panels”, of which there are two in a very visible position on the right hand site of the track. Those panels are simply impossible to miss, especially if you’ve been notified to watch them (with Mercedes did).

  9. BTW, the real reason Hamilton stayed out was that he expected to end the race behind the safety car.. Someone told him that was normal :) /s

    1. Except for the fact that there was no safety car. Otherwise, your joke might have almost been amusing. :)

  10. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    28th March 2022, 15:17

    Given the amount of folks that retired and that he had not yet pitted it would have been really really bad if had not been 6th before he pitted. But Lewis was extremely lucky that he even got 1 point because of all those retirements so let’s not focus on a minor factor in the whole weekend that maybe cost him 1 place.

    The issue started already on Saturday where Hamilton failed to reach Q2 in the 3rd fastest car, not because of the car or the team but because Hamilton couldn’t set the car up right and/or didn’t get the maximum out of the car. Russell had little problems getting into Q2 and Q3 and qualified 5th.

  11. He should’ve pitted on the same lap as Hulkenberg & Magnussen.
    He simply dropped the ball rather than the team, which cost him some points, but given car performance, I’m unsure if he join the championship battle anyway.

  12. Everyone gunning for Hamilton… I guess it was always going to be a bad weekend for him, these things happen.

    He’ll bounce back. But the normal commentary on disrespecting his achievements will always be there.

    1. Achievement?
      Missing a multiple pit call..
      Yep, achievement…

    2. Its just the blinded orange folks. They search for every opportunity to write stupid comments about HAM, and cheer for their paper champ.

      1. Not sure if you mean me..
        But doing stupid things is often a reason for some nice postings indeed.
        But I guess you think Hamilton drove a fantastic race, ad always :)

        1. nope, I dont think he did great this weekend. At least I have some brain, to remember some of his achievements.

  13. Merc would be better off sacking the dolt and getting Nikita instead

  14. HAM has muuuuuuuuch more to lose compared to MAG and HUL. That’s why he needed to be cautious on that.

    On the other hand, race control should’ve closed the pit entry as soon as a car slowed down on the entry, what was they were thinking? An excited marshall would’ve jumped on the road as soon as a car stopped, then what would be the outcome? Would we said “marshall’s fault” or “director’s fault that he didn’t closed the pit lane entry”?

Comments are closed.