Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Update: 2015 Italian Grand Prix
If you just caught the middle of last Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, then you saw a pretty routine F1 race.
The pageantry and energy surrounding this year’s event at Monza was grand in a renaissance Italian way. But the race? It was all about the start and the finish.
At the start, pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton, as well as everyone else blew past his mate in the front row, Nikki Raikkonen. Raikkonen stalled his engine. Apparently the new rule change disallowing outside help to find the optimal clutch bite point is starting to show. Raikkonen’s car jerked forward a little bit, then just sat there like a piece of roadkill.
After that, it was about 49 laps of boredom, a few challenges, a few bits flying from cars, but nothing big.
And then Nico Rosberg’s engine blew on Lap 50 of 53. The power unit, a replacement for one that had failed during qualifications, came from the 2015 series Silver Arrow. Power units and bad race management have burdened Mercedes AMG this season. But….not enough to keep them out of first place in the F1 Constructors Cup. Or keep Lewis from widening his lead for a second straight F1 championship.
One interesting thing that you may not hear of. The tires in Hamilton’s car started the race with 0.3 psi less air than the rules called for. Pirelli, maker of F1 tires, had taken tire pressure measurements prior to the race. Lewis’ racer was low. You may say that .03 psi is not enough to worry about. Well it is. Over the final few laps, the pit instructed Hamilton to drive faster; but provided no context when asked why. Hamilton had a comfortable lead. But the pressure to drive faster saw him win by over 25 seconds.
The penalty for under-inflated tires? 25 seconds.
This weekend has been just fantastic. A perfect weekend for me – I can’t remember one like it. This race is so special for every driver. When you stand up on that podium it’s so emotional. It’s a really proud moment to be up there in front of that sea of fans and to walk in the footsteps of so many great drivers who have won here. The start was pretty close, holding off Sebastian. But from there I felt in control. The balance wasn’t perfect for qualifying but it was one of the best I’ve had in the race. I can’t thank the team enough for all their hard work. Everyone at Brackley and Brixworth is doing such an incredible job. I’ve never seen anything like it, so thank you everyone.
This weekend was very tough for me. There were just too many problems with my car which made it impossible to fight for the win. It hurts a lot when you have to retire with just two or three laps to go. A few corners earlier, I felt already that I had lost some power but was still hoping I could make it. Today was a massive step in the wrong direction for me in the Championship – but to complain doesn’t help in these situations. I just need to keep pushing and come back even stronger. Giving up is not an option for me. I will push hard to turn things in the right direction – starting in Singapore, which is one of my favourite races. I’m looking forward to it already.
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
A bittersweet day for us all with a fantastic win for Lewis but a DNF for Nico after he had climbed back through the field. The pattern was set at the start, when Lewis retained the lead but Nico suffered a bad start. Lewis was able to build a good gap to Vettel, drove a flawless race and thoroughly deserved his victory. The result leaves him in a very strong championship position with seven races to go.
Nico climbed back through the field thanks to strong pace and some great work on the pit wall, when he made an aggressive early stop to undercut both Williams cars in front of him – with a great stop from the boys. That put him in free air and he started a long charge to hunt down Vettel in front. P2 looked possible and Nico was pushing hard to close in – we pushed the power unit very hard and, in hindsight, too far for the high mileage it had. It’s a bitter pill to lose a podium finish just three laps from the end and with P2 in your sights.
Of course, we had to manage the situation with the stewards after the race, although we were confident that we had acted correctly throughout and followed the guidance from Pirelli. As Mercedes-Benz, our number one priority is to operate our car within the prescribed safety limits and this is not something we would ever take a chance on. Indeed, we worked very closely with Pirelli since Spa to help define these limits for the race weekend in Monza, and we saw today that there were no problems in a very high-speed, hard-fought race; my compliments go to Pirelli for the job they have done here in Monza.
Overall, this has been an extremely challenging race but after so many ups and downs, it’s very satisfying to come away with a strong win. However, like we always say, small details decide between success and failure, and we had more evidence this weekend of how hard we must keep pushing to maintain our level of performance in every single race. We have a fantastic team and they have done a great job this season, both at the track and in the factories. Now we need to get our heads down, fix our problems and keep moving forward.
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
Congratulations first and foremost to Lewis on a fantastic win. It was a superbly controlled drive. But, at the same time, our apologies must go to Nico. The weekend first started to unravel for him on Saturday with the failure of a component which contaminated his engine, forcing him to run a Power Unit which had already competed in five race weekends. The power loss from the age of the engine likely cost him a front row grid slot in qualifying and had then clearly been pushed too far in undertaking a sixth race on Sunday. He produced a fantastic recovery drive after a tough start and deserved a result, so our apologies once again to him. We will learn a lot of lessons from this weekend to take into the coming races.
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