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.

Latest INDYCAR Aeroscreen test continues to provide feedback; data to series

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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RICHMOND, Virginia – After completing its third Aeroscreen test since October 2, INDYCAR continues to collect valuable data and feedback from the drivers and engineers involved in testing.

The latest test of the Aeroscreen came Tuesday, October 15 at Richmond Raceway, a .750-mile short oval. Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has been involved in testing dating all the way back to 2017 at Phoenix with the original “Windscreen.” Tuesday’s test was the first-time two-time NTT IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden was able to test the device that partially encloses the cockpit proving greatly enhanced driver safety.

It was also the first time the current “Aeroscreen” designed and created by Red Bull Advanced Technologies, Pankl and Dallara has been tested at a short oval – a track that measures under 1.5-miles in length.

The previous tests were at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 2 and the Barber Motorsports Park road course on October 7.

“It wasn’t a problem getting in the car today and relearning a new viewpoint,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com at the conclusion of Tuesday’s test. “It felt like a new viewpoint. It’s still an Indy car. It still feels like an Indy car. The car does a lot of the things it did before. It required some slight tuning differences to accommodate a different center of gravity and different total weight.

“Overall, it still felt like the same Indy car I drove three weeks ago. You get used to that new viewpoint within 30 or 40 laps. It was alien at first but halfway through the day it feels like home again.”

Newgarden’s Team Penske test team along with INDYCAR officials worked on changes to getting air into the cockpit and directing the air to the right place where the driver can utilize it.

“We’ve come up with some solutions that we like,” Newgarden said. “INDYCAR and the teams will continue to fine-tune this. That is why we are doing these tests. The main goal was to figure this out and fine-tune this stuff. We have come up with a lot of good solutions to all of the little things we have talked about that we have needed so when Sebastien Bourdais goes to Sebring (on November 5), it will just be another version.

“We are already close. Because they are such small details, it feels like normal racing stuff and we will come up with solutions for that.”

Some drivers who have participated in the Aeroscreen test has said, they almost feel naked without having the halo-like structure with a clear windshield protecting them on the race car.

“Once we got through a whole IndyCar season, if you took it off, it would feel really strange,” Newgarden said. “People adapt so quickly to a change, what the car looks like. Once you give us a couple of races and a full year, it will feel like home and something we are very used to as drivers.

“It is already starting to get that way. People are feeling more comfortable with it. The field of view is almost identical to the way it was before. Your peripheral vision is identical, the way you look out the front of the cars is identical, the way you see the tires is identical.”

Individual driver preference will allow for shading of the sun and that can be accomplished with the visor strips on the helmet and the tear-offs on Aeroscreen.

Drivers will also have a bit of a quieter atmosphere inside the cockpit. The partial enclosure makes it easier to hear his radio communication and the sounds of the engine in the driver’s car. It partially blocks out the sounds of the engines in the other cars and the rush of wind traveling at high speeds that used to buffet in and around the helmet.

“It has changed the noise level slightly inside the cockpit,” Newgarden said. “For me, it wasn’t super dramatic. It’s a slight reduction in wind noise. You’re not getting the wind directly over your head as dramatically as you would before. All that external noise has just been dimmed.

“You can hear the radio a touch better, things like that. But the engine noise is still quite prominent. It’s bolted directly behind us, so you still hear quite a bit of what’s going on in the car and the engine.”

Dixon was in the car at Indianapolis on October 2 and returned on Tuesday. The Barber test on October 7 included this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud, in a Team Penske Chevrolet and Ryan Hunter-Reay in an Andretti Autosport Honda.

“The only differences are the openings on the front wing that creates some more airflow around the legs and body and a different inlet in the screen that was in place today,” Dixon told NBC Sports.com. “There were helmet cooling options since the Barber test because on the road course, some of the drivers were getting a little hotter.

“This project has been very in-depth. It hit the ground running very smoothly. There are some alternate options they are trying to create, especially on the street courses where we will experience hot condition. On street conditions, your depth perception changes because of how close you are to the walls, but we should get used to that.”

Two weeks ago, Team Penske driver Will Power said it takes a different style to get out of the race car because of the added height of the Aeroscreen.

That hasn’t been a problem for Dixon.

“That’s easy, man,” he said. “Just go through the hole in the top.”