Hamilton told Mercedes he feared he was “going to crash” during Azerbaijan GP

2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton was so concerned he was going to crash during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix he warned his team on the radio.

The Mercedes driver struggled with the handling of his car throughout Sunday’s race, particularly in the quick corners leading towards the start-finish area.

Mercedes have been experimenting with their car in a bid to cure the porpoising they have suffered throughout the season and improve its performance. Hamilton ran some different parts on his car compared to team mate George Russell, but found they made his its handling worse.

Running on high fuel in the opening laps of the race, Hamilton had to back off in turns 18 and 19, which are normally taken flat-out. “I don’t know what to do about the high-speed,” he told race engineer Peter Bonnington during the Virtual Safety Car period on lap nine. “I have to lift in the high-speed.”

After the VSC period ended Hamilton was running in the slipstream of Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel. He corrected a snap of oversteer in turn 18 the next time he went through it, following which he warned Bonnington he was “going to crash at some stage.”

Hamilton had more close shaves through the quick corners during the rest of the race, but brought his car home successfully in fourth place.

“There was a lot of moments where I didn’t know if I was going to make it,” he admitted after the race. “Just whether I was going to keep the car on track in the high-speed. I nearly lost it in the high-speed several times. So that, the battle with the car, was intense.”

Race start, Baku Street Circuit, 2022
Poll: Vote for your 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix Driver of the Weekend
The W13 felt “horrible” to drive with a high fuel load, said Hamilton, and only improved slightly as its weight reduced. “The beginning of the race was worse,” he said.

“I thought it would get much better, but it got a little better through the corners towards the end, but down the straight still just bouncing.”

After the race Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff apologised to Hamilton that he’d had a “shitbox” to drive during the race.

He confirmed to media afterwards Hamilton had been open to trying the experimental parts. “He’s absolutely in the driving seat here,” said Wolff in response to a question from RaceFans. “All decisions have been taken between him and his engineering team.”

“Sometimes this goes wrong, he has had a car that was more than a handful,” Wolff added, though he noted the exercise had been “good for us to progress as a team.”

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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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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62 comments on “Hamilton told Mercedes he feared he was “going to crash” during Azerbaijan GP”

  1. Honestly, Mercedes should do something about their car. No other car is porpoising as viciously as theirs.

    1. I mean, your not wrong but other drivers/teams have had issues with porpoising. Alonso complained that these cars are the worst ride of last 20 years, Sainz has been critical of his Ferrari bouncing and Ricciardo appeared to be holding is back after Baku. For some reason, mind games most likely, Mercedes seems the be the team everyone is focusing on when it comes to complaints of porpoising.

      1. If they want to make a change for next year, to increase driver comfort, that’s certainly an option the FIA had.

        But right now, it’s up to the teams, and Mercedes in particular, to sort it out for their drivers. Not the FIA and the rulebook.

        And it’s not “for some reason” that people focus on Mercedes. It’s because Toto made it about Mercedes.

      2. They’re 8 times World Champions who are now a second off the pace. It’s a valid story.

        1. It makes a good story and people click on it. This the 5th or 6th article about the same thing since Sunday. Team rivalry between Redbull, Ferrari and Mercedes trigger fans into commenting and creating arguments that create more clicks.

        2. It’s valid that Merc made a drastic change to their chassis and it it’s a disaster.
          They lost a second by their own actions.
          They should change the design or hush – it’s on them.

        3. 7. Only because he benefitted from Mercedes car being so dominant. If he wasn’t british he would be viewed (accurately) as no better or worse than vettel

          1. He’s definitely talking about the contructor’s title, which let’s not forget they won every year from 2014 to 2021, showing they had the fastest car even last year.

      3. For some reason, mind games most likely, Mercedes seems the be the team everyone is focusing on when it comes to complaints of porpoising.

        It’s almost like someone, cough Horner, was stirring things up.

      4. Because Mercedes are making by far the most noise about it.

      5. They don’t complain a lot but i wonder Ferrari problems has todo with porpoising breaking components? (and the fastest cars of the Ferrari teams seems to drop out a lot)
        But Mercedes should fix this but it would cost them a bit of speed.

    2. Gasly is reported today saying drivers may need a cane by 30. It’s a widespread issue. But let’s stir up conspiracy theories that Mercedes is the only one and faking it to get a rules change in their particular benefit.

      As for increasing the ride height, assuming it would work, they are here to race. Do we really want to watch a race that is not about driving ability and car performance but about pain tolerance and injury accumulation? That’s fun.

      1. We’re watching a Championship with ten Constructors trying to engineer the best solutions to a given set of rules.

        We’re also watching a Championship where the Constructor that has won the past 8 titles seemingly cannot accept having come up short this time and refuses to believe real-life data from the track over its apparently flawed simulations.

        1. Just continue to ignore the fact that it’s not just Mercedes with issues. That’s fine.

          1. The point is that others, namely Red Bull and Ferrari, have engineered better solutions to the task at hand, which is proof positive that it’s not the rules that are at fault but the troubled Constructors and their lacking implementation of them.

          2. For the pace maybe @proesterchen, but even within Mercedes Russell didn’t have it as bad bc. he’s content to work with the car as it currently is a bit more rather than doing testruns to improve this issue and their pace (logical, since it’s a lot better most likely than what he had at Williams I guess, and his results have with some luck been solid) and as mentioned above, Sainz had trouble the whole weekend; Leclerc we just heard with other issues, but it didn’t look great. Even Verstappen has been vocal that especially at this track it was a pain in the backside (more or less literally), so it does seem to be more than just Merc. even if they are a great team to tear down ;)

        2. You sure Ferrari isn’t having engine / MGU failures due to vibration?

      2. But let’s stir up conspiracy theories that Mercedes is the only one and faking it to get a rules change in their particular benefit.

        You might as well name it a conspiracy to frame it as if it is FIA’s problem, while it’s the teams who can do something about it.

        Fair enough: it’s not just Merc – I googled the Gasly remark you mentioned and he says:

        I don’t think they can fix something until the end of the year. But hopefully for next year.

        That’s different from the Toto Wolff/Mercedes narrative of “is horrible and it has to change now” [because we didn’t do our homework properly].

    3. I don’t see it. Mercedes looked stiff. The alpine also looked really stiff the rb as well. Baku was making f1 look like indy.

  2. This is getting old way too soon. Just increase the ride height then…

    1. Which would cause further instability and greater risk of a crash.

      1. Guess Mercedes should get a black and white flag for having an unsafe car then.

        1. black and orange*

      2. “Which would cause further instability and greater risk of a crash.”

        This is a completely farcical statement and not based on any actual facts. Why or how could you say this so definitively?

        1. See any other car that relies upon ground effect, such as Indycar or F2.

          1. Mercedes could just drive slower.
            If raising ride height causes instability due to lack of downforce, the solution is to either add downforce somewhere, or slow down. Both come with speed penalties.

            Mercedes could make a change on their car to reduce porpoising, but they don’t want to do it because it will make them slower.

            They are lobbying for a rules change so EVERYONE has to run slower, not just them.

    2. I’m a Hamilton fan, but #yawn# this is getting old. How many variations of the same story can you have…

  3. If only this team had the means to setup the car more in line with what its drivers find comfortable.

  4. We know that Hamilton and Russell were running different parts on the rears of the cars in Baku with Hamilton running the test configuration which may have made the handling worse. The onboard views of Hamilton on the main straight were just horrendous. Most car’s onboard views showed some vibration on the straight but Hamilton’s car seemed ridiculously bad and painful to watch. I have been trying to find onboard footage of Russell on the same straight so I could see them side by side and see if Hamilton had a significantly worse ride than Russell or if it is just age vs youth which is letting apparently Russell cope better, but haven’t been able to find anything so far. Can anyone else find a side by side for the two Mercedes? I’d be more interested in seeing objective evidence than in reading the heavily biased opinions from armchair experts.

    1. Best way to compare them would be F1TV onboard view.

      I just did that – opening up F1TV, both onboard views, side by side, in the same lap (so negating fuel load differences).
      Honestly, it does look worse for Lewis. I don’t know whether Russel’s seating position has anything to do with it but purely speaking about their head movement, Lewis’s head is clearly bobbing up and down harder. Not per sé more frequently, but more vicious and extreme.

      1. Thank you Matt. I don’t have an F1TV subscription but that sounds like just the sort of information I was looking for and goes with the impression I was getting from the snippets I’ve seen. It also confirms what Mercedes have been saying, that Hamilton was running the more experimental setup. I don’t doubt Russell is fast though, and the advantage of youth means he’ll have less wear and tear on the neck to date, but I don’t know how anyone could drive a car bouncing that much, and certainly not do it for a race distance and still get a decent result.

      2. I cany do it unfortunately as no f1tvpro here….but more interestingly would be side by side of Hamilton and say Sainz. The Ferrari suffers it a lot, Sainz seems to more than Leclerc. From what I could see from the coverage…the Ferrari appeared to have more vertical movement at a slightly lower frequency (between bounces) than the Merc.

        1. @asanator Carlos seems to have it a little bit worse than George, but not as bad as Lewis.

          1. Thanks AlanD, @mattds and @asanator good to have some data on this issue.

  5. isthatglock21
    14th June 2022, 13:12

    I’m surprised him & Russell haven’t crashed more this season, the clip going around of Hamilton at the start of the Baku straight & almost loosing it at the kink is scary stuff at those speeds. Can only imagine they’re both taking it easy to avoid crashes all the time, No confidence at all.

  6. Suppose its gonna take a horrendous crash before anything gets done, starting to get that 94 feeling…

    1. You’re absolutely right. Mercedes should increase ride height until they figure out the problem.
      I can’t believe Mercedes is willing to risk their drivers like this.

      1. This! I really wish Toto would stop undermining this once great sport. Last year the tyre change, argued as a safety issue, and now this. While he has all the tools himself to solve it (yes, at the expense of pace, so be it)

    2. I just wanted to say that if there will be a tragedy, the ONLY team and person to blame will be Mercedes and Wolff.

      1. 100% agree

  7. Neil (@neilosjames)
    14th June 2022, 19:33

    You could see he couldn’t take the kinks as quickly when he was racing the Alpine early on… the Alpine was quick in a straight line, but when he was following it Hamilton was exiting the last ‘proper’ corner pretty close to its rear, then visibly dropping a lot of time (probably three tenths or so, on top of normal concertina) through the kinks.

  8. Rumors say that Hamilton wasn’t able to eat later in the night. Stay awake for this incredible news.

  9. W13 was a car with the smallest porpoising amplitude in Spain. The issue is about race track, not the car. I’d rather say that not all tracks are suitable for F1 racing.

    1. That’s an excellent point. F1 has reintroduced ground effects in an era where it’s simultaneously insisting on more and more road races. Yet it won’t allow active suspension to make that combination more plausible.

    2. Indycar has been running ground effect cars for a decade with minuscule budgets compared to F1 teams. Add to the most of the circuits are far worse in terms of surface conditions. Dallara and the teams have never found it to be problematic. I will add the only instance that I can recall of an Indycar team having this degree of suspension and bottoming out issues were Mclaren when they failed to qualify Alonso for the Indy 500 a few years ago. It seems that F1 teams chasing peak aero performance often times overlook mechanical grip and compliance. One of many reasons the sport has little to no road relevance anymore

      1. It’s a fair point. Perhaps the FIA should send some cars to Belle Isle to experience a proper bumpy street circuit. The Mercedes would be a hazard to the crowd, would likely bounce over the fence.

      2. And Indycar has some road relevance? Tell me what technology during the last 30 years was transferred from Indycar to automotive industry? Worth to mention as well if F1 has no more road relevance that’s on FIA not F1 as a high tech sport. FYI aviation industry is more interested in F1 research than automotive industry.

        1. You are deriving a false equivalence from my statement. I never assert that Indycar is road relevant nor do I believe they aspire to be. They understand their position is Motorsport as entertainment. F1 on the other hand continues to push the narrative of road relevance. Additionally relevance is a two way street, emulating what is used in road cars is just as relevant as developing it first. And to your point about technology transference to the aviation industry, typically that has been the other way around as well. There are far more examples of F1 team seeking answers from the aviation industry. Honda jet helping with turbo design or even as far back as Mclaren partnering Hercules to introduce carbon fiber monocoques. Usually the supposed “f1 technologies” have seen widespread use in other industries well before use in an f1 car.

  10. Firstly, Hamilton and Mercedes aren’t faking it. I find Horner, as usual, really objectionable in his blasé accusations, but expect nothing better from him. He’s either just a deeply unpleasant individual or thinks he has to act like one to do his job. Other team principals show otherwise. And even Verstappen recognized that the potential harm to drivers is real.
    Secondly, though, Red Bull don’t deserve to lose out for designing the best car.
    Thirdly, though, if, say, a mandatory raise of ride height was imposed by FIA to resolve extreme porpoising, not only Mercedes but also Ferrari might lose hugely. Effectively handing over the championship to Red Bull. Sure that’s a possibility and maybe should happen. But some flexibility to allow the issue to be resolved this season by some other technology is also an option that would benefit F1 overall. I presume that for next season and beyond FIA will be looking at some rule changes to lessen the problem.

    1. I agree in general with your comments and have resentment towards Horners behavior for years (and Toto’s too) but in his defense a similar lobby and subsequent adjustment staged Mercedes come back in previous season (in season tyre change). Also labelled a ‘safety issue’ as it is the magic word to enforce an in season change. So in this case I understand him, also when you add the whole Shaila-Ann Rao thing (however high her integrity may be).

    2. @david-br I find it objectionable that you would put words in Horner’s mouth. I think given your level of venom if it was RBR that was suffering the most with porpoising and Mercedes the least, while also leading the Championships, you’d have little sympathy for RBR and certainly would not be advocating for FIA intervention.

      Horner has acknowledged the uncomfortablenesses of what we are witnessing and merely points out that it is within the teams to do something about it as they themselves have shown. As he has said, paraphrasing, if it was all teams and all drivers at all tracks that would be a different story. But it is not. Mercedes could start by not experimenting with LH, since said experiments are obviously not working. If he’s going to lag behind GR and finish races a minute back of the leader, they might as well give him GR’s setups and make him more comfortable and faster, particularly at the certain tracks where this is more of an issue.

      Of course it is possible (although I’m not sure if they should) that FIA might advocate rule changes for next season (I doubt anything can or should be done for this season), and with the caps already having teams’ budgeted spending allotted within their season programs, teams such as Mercedes are just going to have to adapt or live with sacrificing driver comfort for pace. That’s what Horner is saying, as would you be if it was RBR suffering. Not sure what you mean exactly by ‘some flexibility,’ if it isn’t to involve more money.

      1. Sorry @robbie that’s not the language Horner used, which I can’t even quote here because it won’t post. The consensus on the grid (and among journalists) was that Hamilton was in real pain and that the discomfort in general was high. His comments fed into a narrative that it was all being faked. That’s just false and disreputable. Sad that you can’t see that.

        1. @david-br Agree to disagree. I think it is sad you read what you are into his words. He never said anything like that he thought they were faking it. Let’s face it, Horner wouldn’t likely be saying a thing if some weren’t calling for FIA intervention, when they themselves have shown it is not necessary. That is what twigged him to comment. He has acknowledged their discomfort which is the opposite of calling them fakers.

          1. Here’s the quote then @robbie:

            “I’d tell them to b—– as much as they could over the radio and make as big an issue out of it as they possibly could,” said Horner in response to a question from RaceFans. “It’s part of the game. It’s like somebody [diving] in a penalty box.”

            Diving in football (soccer) means faking it.

          2. Phew…seven hour drive up to Northern Ontario and back here on my phone to respond.

            But surely you can see CH is being tongue in cheek here, for what you have decided to neglect to include is him saying he’d do the same thing because it is part of the game. And why ignore that he also admitted it looks uncomfortable? Would he say that of a footballer diving? No because we know those are ridiculously fake to draw a penalty. But yet he is even saying diving ‘in the penalty box.’ Lol obviously tongue in cheek.

            I think it is obvious CH is not saying drivers are faking it for we can all see they are not. What he is saying is being ‘faked’ is that some teams, rather than fixing or altering their problem and making their drivers more comfortable are rather having their drivers now claim ‘safety’ and ‘danger’ to try to garner sympathy from FIA, when they could be just making it easier on the drivers but for their choice not to, in the name of more speed.

            They’re in the ‘penalty box’ ie. haven’t done their job, and are now crying for relief for not having done their job by eliminating or reducing their porpoising…by choice.

  11. Just raise the ride height. If it negatively impacts lap times oh well. McLaren compromised. Mercedes can as well.

  12. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    15th June 2022, 1:33

    I don’t know how they do it. Even Brundle is amazed.

  13. Even Sainz is calling for FIA action. It’s a done deal now. The FIA is facing a narrative about the formula and the series that is sharply negative. In addition they are now accountable for any bottoming related accident because the safety issue is being universally cited. They are not in a position to do nothing anymore.

    That said I don’t know what the fix is, because if it was easy the teams would have done it already. If they raise all the cars, assuming this actually works, chopping a second off the lap times will be an admission something is wrong with the new formula.

  14. is there something to be said for having the driver’s seat and cockpit having a second level of suspension internal. The cars do better with MUCH stiffer suspension, so decoupling the driver from the chassis more might make sense.

  15. Of course he did. Its part of the lobby towards the FIA

  16. If the surface is not bumpy in Montreal they should be ok right? France is definitely a smooth track, will everyone forget about it if they do not porpoise there like Spain.

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