Hamilton: Mercedes strategy call meant I needed a miracle to win

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Lewis Hamilton is unlikely to have won many friends in Formula 1 over the past few days. After openly criticizing teammate Nico Rosberg both before and after qualifying, it was clear that he would do anything to win the Monaco Grand Prix.

Hamilton believed that he had deliberately been denied a certain pole position by Rosberg, who had made a mistake on his final lap in qualifying and brought out waved yellow flags. This forced the drivers behind him to back off, meaning Hamilton could not improve his time.

During the race yesterday, Hamilton trailed Rosberg ahead of the first round of pit stops. When Adrian Sutil crashed at the exit of the tunnel, the safety car was deployed, thus prompting the teams to pit their cars.

However, Rosberg and Hamilton were two of the first to come across the incident. Despite the safety car not being deployed by the time he came around to the pits, Hamilton wanted to make a stop to anticipate it. Mercedes refused, and instead told him to come in on the same lap as Rosberg when they knew that the safety car was coming out.

The team’s mechanics turned both cars around very quickly, ensuring that they remained in the top two positions. However, Hamilton challenged the decision over the radio. “Why didn’t we pit?” he asked. “I knew we should have stopped.”

His engineer, Pete Bonnington, informed him that he would not be stopping again, meaning that his only chance to pass Rosberg was by doing so on track. Ultimately, he finished the race in second place, some nine seconds down on the German.

After the race, Hamilton made no secret of his annoyance when talking to Sky Sports.

“When I was at McLaren we had two strategists and the strategy from my strategist was to get the best overall result for me,” he explained. “Unfortunately we have one overall strategist, and he’s amazing, but unfortunately the role in the team is that he has to look out for the number one and the guy in second has to come second.

“I knew from the get-go that I had a lesser opportunity to win the race and I needed a miracle to win at a track like this.”

Hamilton said that his former team, McLaren, would have let him stop.

“An opportunity occurred where I could have come in,” he said. “When I was at McLaren, l would have been pulled in on that lap and that may have given me the smallest advantage to get the jump over the safety car.”

Instead, he was forced to finish in second place. After a week of cryptic comments and subtle digs at Rosberg, though, this outburst is far from surprising.

Hamilton lost his temper with Bonnington in the final few stages of the race. The Briton had dropped back from Rosberg after getting something in his eye, and asked for information on how he was doing.

Bonnington told him that Ricciardo was closing, but Hamilton retorted: “I don’t care about Ricciardo! I want to know the gap to Nico.”

However, he soon had to care as Ricciardo closed up, and ultimately finished just 0.4 seconds behind the Mercedes driver.

After a week of mind games and tension, Hamilton’s defeat on Sunday will have come as a bitter blow. Nevertheless, he’ll be gunning to regain the championship lead in Canada next time out.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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