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.

INDYCAR announces several rules and protocol changes for 2018 season

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The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series opener is still more than six weeks away (March 11, St. Petersburg, Florida).

But several rules and protocol changes that will impact much of the 17-race season were announced today by INDYCAR officials.

First is related to Indianapolis 500 qualifying on May 19-20, one week prior to the 102nd running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing:

* Driver and entrant points will be awarded to the top nine qualifiers for the race. The pole winner earns nine points and the second-fastest qualifier eight points, with awarded points decreasing by one point for each position down to one point earned by the ninth-fastest qualifier.

* Race points for the Indianapolis 500 and the 2018 season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 16, will still pay double the normal points for driver and entrant.

There are several other changes on tap for the season, as well.

Here’s a quick rundown of those changes (information courtesy of INDYCAR):

  • The qualifying order for all oval track events except the Indianapolis 500 will be determined by entrant points entering the event. The qualifying order will run in reverse order of entrant points, with the highest in entrant points qualifying last. A car without entrant points will be placed at the front of the qualifying line. If more than one car has no entrant points entering an event, a blind draw among those cars will determine their qualifying order at the front of the line. The qualifying order for the Indianapolis 500 will still be determined by a blind draw.
  • Times have been set for the series-wide open test at ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix Raceway), scheduled for Feb. 9-10. The track will be open to all cars from 3-6 p.m. and 8-11 p.m. ET both days. INDYCAR has also added four hours of track time on Feb. 8 (3-7 p.m. ET) for rookie drivers to complete their oval test assessments.
  • The series-wide open test at Portland International Raceway will be held Aug. 30, a day prior to the beginning of the Grand Prix of Portland race weekend. Indy car racing returns to the Pacific Northwest for the first time in 11 years in 2018.
  • A schedule change for the month of May will see the INDYCAR garages closed on May 13 – the day after the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course – to allow teams time off for Mother’s Day. The track will not be open to the public on this day. The garages will be open on May 14, but there will be no on-track activity.
  • Practice for the 2018 Indianapolis 500 begins Tuesday, May 15 on the IMS oval, with the first two hours open for rookie orientation and veteran refreshers, then to all cars. Practice continues May 16-18, ahead of qualifications weekend May 19-20.
  • INDYCAR is granting teams that did not participate in fall manufacturer testing with the universal aero kit an additional half day of private testing. The testing is limited to one car per team and must take place in conjunction with the team’s first on-track test of 2018. Each team is permitted five hours of track time and two sets of Firestone tires.
  • Working with Firestone, INDYCAR has increased the tire allotment at five events. The race weekends at ISM Raceway (Phoenix), the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Texas Motor Speedway, the streets of Toronto and Iowa Speedway will see teams receive an additional set of tires. In a related change, drivers outside the top 10 in the point standings will no longer have an extra set of tires available to them for the opening practice session of a race weekend.
  • The minimum car weight for 2018 has been increased by 10 pounds – to 1,620 pounds for road and street courses and short ovals, 1,590 pounds for superspeedways (both do not include fuel, drink bottle and its contents, driver and driver equivalency weight) – to accommodate for new parts and additional on-car cameras related to the universal aero kit all competitors will run in 2018.