Lewis Hamilton saw his hopes of winning a fourth Formula 1 drivers’ championship suffer a serious blow in Malaysia on Sunday when he was forced to retire from the race while leading by over 20 seconds.
Hamilton entered the race weekend trailing teammate Nico Rosberg by eight points in the standings with six races to run in the season.
Hamilton looked set to reclaim the lead after staying out of trouble at Turn 1 while Rosberg was spun by Sebastian Vettel, leaving the German to fight his way back up the field.
At the start of lap 40, Hamilton’s theoretical championship lead was five points with Rosberg sitting fourth, only for his engine to catch fire heading into the first corner.
Mercedes confirmed that Hamilton has suffered an “unexpected mechanical failure of the internal combustion engine” with “no prior warning signs”.
Hamilton made no secret of his annoyance after the race, telling reporters that “something’s not right” after suffering yet another engine failure.
The three-time champion’s early-season form was spoiled by a string of engine issues that allowed Rosberg to forge an early lead in the drivers’ championship.
“It definitely is tough to see all those points disappear when you’ve worked so hard to get them,” Hamilton told NBCSN.
“It’s a very odd feeling right now and be positive and say everything’s great. I’m the only one with Mercedes engines that have been failing this year out of all the engines, which doesn’t sit right with me.
“I had a brand new engine, so I was at the race setting. It was our best racing setting that we usually use.”
Rosberg managed to fight back to third place come the checkered flag, meaning he now has a 23 point lead in the drivers’ championship with five races remaining.
Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.
The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.
“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.
“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.
“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”
The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.
Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.
Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.
McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.