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

4 Comments

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.

MRTI: Toronto digest

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

Last year’s visit to the streets of Toronto for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires proved to be a pivotal point in the championship chase that year.

Kyle Kaiser swept both races in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, and doing so gave him firm control over the championship, and he all but clinched it ahead of the season finale at Watkins Glen – Kaiser needed to only start that event to wrap up the title.

And in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, while Parker Thompson swept the weekend, Oliver Askew was caught up in a crash in Race 2. Combine that with a second place finish from 2017 title rival Rinus VeeKay – VeeKay also finished third in Race 1 – and it kept the championship within reach of VeeKay, who took it all the way to the finale at The Glen.

The 2018 visit north of the border will likely be remembered for a similar impact on the MRTI championships, both in Indy Lights and USF2000 and, maybe most significantly, in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

A look at big stories to emerge from a wild weekend on the streets of Toronto is below.

Indy Lights

Santi Urrutia scored a much needed win in Race 2 on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Santi Urrutia’s championship hopes were teetering entering the weekend – he was 49 points out of the lead and had been vastly overshadowed by title combatants Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta for most of the season. But, his Race 2 victory combined with a second place in Race 1 to close him to within 40 points of O’Ward for the championship lead. He’s still a bit of a long shot, but his chances look much brighter leaving Toronto than they did entering.
  • More significantly, Colton Herta’s title hopes may have taken an enormous hit. After crashing in Race 1 qualifying, just after grabbing the pole as well, Herta suffered a thumb fracture that he aggravated again after crashing during Race 1. It forced the team to recommend Herta essentially sit out Race 2 – he pulled off after running only a couple laps and finished sixth – and he dropped to 18 points behind O’Ward, who won Race 1 and finished second in Race 2. The margin is hardly a commanding one for O’Ward, but with the next stop at the ultra-physical Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Herta’s injured hand could remain a factor in the coming races and allow O’Ward to widen the margin.
  • One can’t help but feel bad for Victor Franzoni. Coming off the high of winning his first Indy Lights Race at Road America, Franzoni’s season took a turn for the worse. He crashed in Race 1 and then pulled off in Race 2 in order to conserve finances and resources – Franzoni detailed afterward that the budget is tight for him this year and crash damage from Race 1 does him no good. It would be a genuine shame if Franzoni’s season was derailed by funding issues, as the likeable Brazilian has made great progress all year and has the potential to make it as a Verizon IndyCar Series driver. He just needs the backing to get there.

Pro Mazda

Rinus VeeKay now trails Parker Thompson by only seven points in the Pro Mazda championship. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • No Mazda Road to Indy Championship was shaken up as much as Pro Mazda. Parker Thompson entered the weekend with a sizeable lead of 46 points over Rinus VeeKay. He exits the weekend only seven points ahead after finishes of eighth in both races – he was involved in a crash in Race 1 and made an unscheduled pit stop after thinking he suffered suspension damage in Race 2. Meanwhile, VeeKay dominated the weekend, winning from the pole in both races. It all means that what was once looking like a possible runaway has been all but reset. And we might see a genuine duel between them all the way to the season finale at Portland International Raceway.
  • There are few words to describe the relief everyone felt in seeing Harrison Scott walk away unhurt after his frightening airborne crash in Race 1. This was the first major crash test in a race for the Tatuus PM-18, and it aced it. And big kudos should also be given to the AMR Safety Team, who were already tending to Scott barely a few seconds after his car had come to a rest. Scott did start Race 2, but pulled off with a mechanical problem…which seems minor in comparison to what could have happened in Race 1.
  • Oliver Askew had his best race of the year in Race 2, finishing second to VeeKay for his second podium of the season. It’s been a tough year for Askew and Cape Motorsports after winning last year’s USF2000 title, and getting a podium under their belt could be just what they needed heading into the season’s stretch run.

USF2000

Kyle Kirkwood continued his USF2000 dominance on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • After another weekend sweep, Kyle Kirkwood has one hand on the USF2000 championship. He leads Kaylen Frederick by a staggering 131 points – that’s over four road course races worth of points. He may well leave Mid-Ohio as the USF2000 champion. And even if he doesn’t, it would take something unheard of to keep the championship from his grasp.
  • Kaylen Frederick sits second, only three points up on Igor Fraga. Fraga had his best race since Race 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg, when he finished second, and he nearly outdueled Kirkwood for the win in Race 2. Both he and Frederick have caught fire of late, and their battle for second is very evenly matched.
  • Don’t count out Rasmus Lindh in the battle for second in the championship either. The Swedish driver is seven points behind Frederick and scored his third podium of the year by finishing third in Race 2 at Toronto. Second is well within his reach.

The Mazda Road to Indy is off this weekend before heading to Mid-Ohio, where Indy Lights and USF2000 again have double headers, while Pro Mazda will enjoy a triple header.

Follow@KyleMLavigne