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Formula 1

Mercedes’ theory over the damage that cost Hamilton second

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff has explained how the car damage that cost Lewis Hamilton second place in the Austrian Grand Prix came about, and why the team “didn’t see that as a driving mistake”.

Hamilton was on course for a routine second place when he abruptly began to struggle around the halfway point of the event, falling into the clutches of team-mate Valtteri Bottas and the chasing McLaren of Lando Norris.

With the reigning champion having lost downforce and therefore unable to preserve his tyres to make the planned one-stop work, Hamilton ceded position to Bottas and Norris before pitting for a tyre change, and coming home in a lonely fourth place.

Both Hamilton and Mercedes were confounded by how his W12 came to be damaged.

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Austrian Grand Prix 2021

“I wasn’t going over the top of the kerbs any more than anyone else, so I have no idea where it happened. It was a lot of damage,” Hamilton told Sky.

“I think it was around lap 30 out of Turn 10, where there’s a pretty aggressive kerb,” Wolff said. “But we didn’t see that it was a driving mistake, it was pretty much the load that that occurred [that created the issue] and we need to analyse why that was.”

The view from Hamilton’s onboard seems to corroborate Wolff’s interpretation, with Hamilton managing relatively tidy and similar exits through Turn 10 in the laps leading up to his first pitstop – which came at the end of lap 31.

But the stop did come after a lap in which the Mercedes man suddenly lost seven tenths of a second relative to his prior pace.

“We have calculated that we lost about 30 points [of downforce], but that is a number that is not checked yet,” Wolff said. “But there was quite a loss in performance and that meant he was pushing the tyres in a direction that they wouldn’t have made it to the end probably.”

Hamilton said the feeling from the car was that he “just lost a lot of downforce at the rear” and that it was “like I’d gone down a couple of steps on the rear wing”.

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Austrian Grand Prix 2021

“I’m grateful to finish today, of course it’s frustrating today to lose second. Thought I did a good job to get there. But unfortunately just wasn’t meant to be today,” he said.

Wolff indicated that the team briefly considered having Bottas hold station behind Hamilton for the rest of the race, but soon realised it wasn’t viable.

“We wanted to evaluate what his performance really was after the damage and whether it was possible that Valtteri could have protected against Lando but that wasn’t possible.

“And then it was also fair to towards Valtteri to do his own race and this is when we decided to switch, obviously understanding that we would lose P3 to McLaren. “

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