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.

Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
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To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

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“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”