Mercedes explain Hamilton’s engine cut-outs during Mexican Grand Prix

2022 Mexican Grand Prix

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Mercedes’ motorsport strategy director James Vowles has explained the engine cut-outs Lewis Hamilton experienced during the Mexican Grand Prix weekend.

Hamilton qualified third despite his engine briefly cutting out at times. The problem recurred in the race, where Hamilton finished second, and team mate George Russell also experienced delays in power delivery.

Mercedes revealed the problems arose due to difficulties in optimising due to the unique conditions of the high-altitude Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, which sits 2,285 metres above sea level.

“You generally map the engine for the conditions it is most used in which is sea level,” explained Vowles in a video released by the team. “That’s where most of the racing takes place.

“When you suddenly go to these levels of altitude you are in a very different condition and instead of having an engine that is really highly-tuned you are back into a condition where you have to do lots of work with the power unit in a very short space of time to try and map out these irregularities. I am confident all teams will suffer this, it won’t be unique to ourselves.”

The problem was particularly acute in qualifying, where it began to emerge on Hamilton’s car at the end of Q2. That, plus a mistake on his first lap in Q3 which led to his lap time being deleted for a track limits infringement, saw Hamilton slip to third on the grid having been quickest in the first two stages of qualifying.

“It’s typically accentuated in qualifying because you are very quickly and rapidly applying the throttle pedal which means that the turbo and fuelling systems need to keep up with that change very quickly,” Vowles explained.

“Normally it’s better in the race. We were hoping that the race would not be as bad and it comes from a factor when the drivers are requesting throttle and picking up throttle it was simply not delivering the power they request quick enough, so [not] enough fuel or enough air.

“It can be tuned out in time and where we got to in the race wasn’t a bad position, I think qualifying was worse. But still enough to cause a small amount of performance loss for both drivers.”

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2022 Mexican Grand Prix

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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17 comments on “Mercedes explain Hamilton’s engine cut-outs during Mexican Grand Prix”

  1. The PU was complaining instead of Lewis for once!

  2. This isn’t really my idea of an explanation, it’s a list of factors. They knew it was coming, and other teams didn’t have it, so what needs explaining is how they didn’t come up with a map that worked properly with these known variables

    1. Yeah, they’re just reprinting press releases as click bait here :-(

      1. Falken, to be fair, Ferrari have also said they couldn’t extract maximum power from their engine either, and the Alpines both had problems. Does anyone know if the air pressure was lower than expected?

  3. It seems to me Mercedes are doing something really clever with the fuel and its this which makes the car seem to cut out. It would be like lift and coast but with fuel. They’ll have sensors monitoring the fuel flow,but what if after the fuel flows past that sensor its not used immediately, but reserved and then used when you need a rush….

    1. @Ajaxn, if that’s what Merc are doing, they are obviously not doing it very well. Didn’t Ferrari try something like this a few years back and it was very firmly outlawed?

    2. It sounds like a fuel flow problem rather then a feature like Ferrari had. But you can’t gather fuel that is where the FIA really watched on as in the beginning some of this kind ‘solutions’ where created. They even added more sensors to check the flow sensor before and after.

      1. Current rules are very clear and specific to prevent teams doing as you suggest. Line sizes, hydraulic stiffness, volume of fuel contained and a bunch of factors that we haven’t thought of yet are all included.
        Not to mention back-to-back flow sensors.

  4. I’m not sure what the current regs are, but I thought teams had to submit their set of engine mappings in advance and were “locked in” for the season. Also this year they had to switch to E10 which was a bit of an unknown. Over the course of the season, Merc have clearly been down on power but up on reliablilty compared to Ferrari and Red Bull which could well be an engine mappings issue. Can any people well versed in engines cast any further light on this?

    1. As far as I know, gear ranges are set for the season, engine mapping just have to be unchanged from the first lap in qualifying until the end of the race.

      1. someone or something
        2nd November 2022, 23:14

        Exactly. Mappings are heavily track-dependant, it would make things unnecessarily difficult if you couldn’t adapt them to the different tracks.
        However, it is true that the mappings are subject to Parc Fermé regulations, so no changing modes except for reliability reasons.
        The reason being that the FIA indeed wants to monitor closely what’s happening in the PUs, but their issue was never with different modes/mappings, but with frequent changes that might be used to mask incompliance with the rules.

        1. I thought drivers could still switch modes during the race, and I’m sure I’ve heard the pit wall giving instructions to drivers on how to change the engine modes. Isn’t that achieved by changing the engine mapping to deliver more power, or better fuel economy etc? I think I must be misunderstanding the terminology.

          1. I’ve often thought about that too Alan. “Go to Strat 6, 8” etc.

          2. The rule is the lowest engine mode is locked (so no partymode and then cruisemode) the highest enginemode they use in qualify is the one locked as lowest enginge mode so if they want they can use higher modes but that cost engine life. Also Strats is about energy recovering mode and deplayment of the batteries.

          3. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
            3rd November 2022, 9:36

            They have quali / race mode and they have a couple of others for safety car and slow running.

  5. I recommend a chassis dyno with altitude/low ambient pressure capability, they are pretty nice things, though cooling an f1 car will be challenging. These are available in Europe but maybe they ran out of budget 😂

  6. @MacLeod, thank you for the clear explanation of engine mode limitations which I hadn’t understood previously, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard explained by TV commentators. Thank you everyone for useful feedback and comments. It is so good to see a discussion on this site which is genuinely a discussion rather than fan faction slanging matches.

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