Mercedes boss Toto Wolff apologizes to Hamilton

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Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has issued an apology to Lewis Hamilton after a mistake on the pit wall cost the Briton a near-certain victory in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.

Hamilton had dominated proceedings around the streets of the principality all weekend long, storming away from pole position to open up a 19-second lead heading into the final 15 laps of the race.

However, a crash between Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean resulted in a late safety car period, during which Mercedes opted to pit Hamilton in the belief that he would retain his lead.

The team had miscalculated Hamilton’s advantage, though, meaning that the Briton emerged on track in third place behind teammate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. He was unable to pass the drivers, forcing him to settle for P3 at the line.

Hamilton was evidently disappointed after the race, and Wolff was quick to apologize to the Briton.

“We must apologize to Lewis,” Wolff said. “We win and we lose together and what I am proud of in this team is that we take collective responsibility.

“But this is a day when we simply have to say sorry to our driver, because our mistake cost him the victory here.”

Wolff admitted that Mercedes had made a miscalculation, believing that Hamilton’s lead was bigger than it actually was.

“In simple terms, we got our numbers wrong,” he said. “We thought we had the gap for Lewis to take fresh tyres and come back out in the lead behind the safety car, ahead of Nico and covering off any risk of another competitor taking fresh tires.

“But the calculation was incorrect and he came out in third place. It was our decision to call him in and our mistake, pure and simple; in these situations, a driver trusts his team.

“Lewis had driven flawlessly until then and really delivered a perfect weekend, with a stunning pole lap and a masterful race. There’s nothing more to say other than to highlight the grace with which he handled the situation; he was a leader and a true sportsman this afternoon.”

Wolff confirmed that there would be an internal investigation into the incident at Mercedes, and he hopes that the team will emerge stronger for the incident.

“We now need to stay calm and analyse how we made the mistake this afternoon,” Wolff explained. “We will be harshly self-critical behind closed doors and this experience will make us a better and a stronger team in the races ahead.

“There is still a very long way to go in this championship and today showed that we have the performance in our car to do the job this year.”

Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen’s two-man battle in Motocross provides surprises

Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross
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The 2019 Motocross season is one-third in the books and the title battle may have already come down to a two-man contest, while the pair of contenders might just be a little surprising in their own way.

Strictly by the numbers, no one can count Eli Tomac’s early season charge of first- and second-place finishes shocking, but threepeating in Motocross is such an incredibly difficult feat that no one would have been surprised to see him struggle out of the gates either. And in fact, that is precisely what happened.

Tomac came out of the gates slow in Round 1 and was seventh by the end of Lap 1 of Moto 1 – hardly the auspicious start he hoped for. He rebounded only as far as fourth and that ultimately cost him a chance to win the overall. Tomac won Moto 2 to claim second overall.

In Round 2, Tomac found his rhythm and won both Motos and grabbed the red plate. For the moment, he had the momentum with three consecutive Moto wins.

Tomac stumbled again in Round 3 – this time finishing only fifth in Moto 1 and earning only 16 points to dig a deep hole that eventually surrendered the red plate to Ken Roczen.

It was at Thunder Valley in Round 3 that a pattern emerged. Tomac would not make it easy on himself early in the day, but was more than capable of winning the second Motos to overcome his deficit.

That Roczen has won this season is also not a surprise in itself. Many believed his ascent to the top step of the podium was way overdue.

That he has run so well, however, was not entirely expected at the start of the season. Since injuring both arms in a pair of accidents, Roczen came tantalizingly close to snapping his winless streak a dozen times. He won heat races during the Supercross season and finished second at Anaheim I, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Seattle earlier this year.

He just couldn’t secure the overall win.

Roczen’s Moto 1 victory at Hangtown might have been the precursor to another disappointing weekend, but once Tomac got into the lead, Roczen zeroed in on the Kawasaki’s back tire and finished second in route to the overall victory.

Roczen lost the overall and the red plate to Tomac in Round 2 at Pala, but he stood on the podium in both Motos. Roczen podiumed twice again in Round 3 while taking that overall victory to regain the red plate in what has become a seesaw affair in the early part of the 2019 season.

Last week, Roczen looked more like Tomac with his desperate struggle in Moto 1 and sixth-place finish. That was the first (and so far only) time this season that he failed to stand on the podium.

Roczen’s Moto 2 win last week was just enough to put him second overall with barely enough points to force a tie at the top of the leaderboard with 176 points apiece.

Meanwhile, Tomac failed to win either Moto with a third in the first race and runner-up finish in the second.

The moral victory and advantage may shift to Roczen this week.

As they have swapped the victory in the first four rounds with Roczen winning the odd-numbered events, he sees this weekend’s Round 5 as an opportunity.

“I’m looking forward to next weekend’s race,” Roczen said in a team press release. “The track is sandy. It’s very similar—actually almost identical—to what I ride on a regular basis at home.”

Tomac and Roczen enter Round 5 with a 32-point advantage over two riders tied for third in the standings.

So far Zach Osborne and Jason Anderson have not been in the same league as the leaders, but it only takes one slip of the wheel to fall out of the points in in a race and allow these racers to close the gap.

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