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Video: Mercedes reveals true cause of Melbourne error

NEWS STORY
28/03/2018

Mercedes has revealed that a bug in its software caused the team to lose out to Ferrari in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

While it was initially thought that the team's failure to put Lewis Hamilton back ahead of Sebastian Vettel when the German pitted under the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was down to a problem with its race strategy software, it has now been revealed that in fact the problem was due to an offline tool the team uses to calculate delta times between those cars pitting and those remaining on track.

"The issue isn't really with the race strategy software that we use," explains Andrew Shovlin, the German team's trackside engineering director, in the latest edition of its Pure Pitwall series.

"It was an offline tool that we create these delta lap times with, and we found a bug in the tool that meant that it gave us the wrong number.

"The number that we were calculating was around fifteen seconds," he reveals, "and in reality the number was slightly short of thirteen seconds, so that was what created our delta. That is why we thought we were safe. We thought we had a bit of margin and then you saw the result. We dropped out, we were in second place and it is very difficult to overtake and we couldn't get through."

Due to the consequences of the failure, Mercedes will devote the same time and resources to fixing the issue as it would with a reliability issue on the car.

"It is really about understanding everything that went wrong, gathering all the data, and invariably it is never just one thing," he said. "So there are elements that we can do better with calculating that, but we have also looked at it for the future. We are going to make sure we have more margin because we want to be able to cover for Vettel doing an amazingly good in-lap to the pits, or having an incredibly fast stop. With any of these things, we look at what went wrong, work out how to solve it and then put the processes in place to make sure we don't have a repeat.

"It is never quite an exact science because you don't know how fast a car is going to be able to come through that pit entry," concludes the Briton, referring to the fact one of the main factors on Sunday was the fact that while those cars on track were speed limited under VSC rules, Vettel, and the other drivers that pitted at that time, were able to speed up from the safety car line until reaching the pit lane speed limit.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Spindoctor, 02/04/2018 7:58

"MotoGP's big advantages are that that without significant aero to play with, they can focus on the essentials. That option isn't wholly available for cars, and F1 has been stupid enouigh to allow aerodynamics to proliferate to a ludicrous extent.

MotoGP has also eschewed all the ridiculous "tweaks" aimed at "improving the show". No gripless grooved tyres, or those made out of playdough, designed to last 10 laps here. No pointless requirement to use two different tyres, no consequent silly pit-stops.
There are tyre options, and MotoGP is fuel-limited. Riders & Teams have to manage Fuel-consumptiuon & tyre-wear, but without the need constantly to stop racing and save Fuel\Tyres.

Once the lights go out at MotoGP races, it's mainly balls-out action until the flag.
Smart riders (like Rossi) might take it easy and save tyres & fuel for a final push, others just go for broke and try to break away from the off. Things ebb & flow as various pre-race decisions about tyres & set-up play-out. It's called "Motor Racing" - F1 take note..."

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2. Posted by Liam III, 29/03/2018 20:26

"In response to all of the MotoGP posts. I guess you get what you pay for. Here in US F1 is basically free if you have DirecTV. I haven't found ANY two wheeled racing that is not on dirt anywhere on my channel guide, its like motorcycles are incapable of racing on anything other than dirt or something. I'll just have to see MotoGP on YouTube I guess to see what all the hubbub is about. I even went to their website and you have to create an account just to view it. I guess they control it so tightly that it is a secret to even watch it. "

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3. Posted by Greg, 29/03/2018 16:55

"with no speed limit into the pit lane from the safety car line to the pit lane line, those that took advantage just played the game better. Next time from the lessons learned all will do the same. No need to close the loop hole eith another rule, someone will find another way around.

The idea in the latest poll for the Indy style aero is good. Easy to implement mext year, i don't think this year. All the fedigners could easily adapt it i am sure. Just some little tweaks here and there. I know its not that easy but it surely could be done."

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4. Posted by HoosierDaddy, 29/03/2018 10:53

"I'm still not clear if the error in this instance caused them to lose the lead or just failed to let them know before it happened."

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5. Posted by bevlad, 29/03/2018 8:05

"@Oldbuzzard, I think they use VSC when there is people on the trackside to clear an incident and the full Safety Car is used when machinery is on track to remove a car. When you have a SC then it gives the marshals a few minuets per lap to do work without any cars passing by.

@nonickname, I dont think overtaking equals entertainment. Admittedly this race was a bit stale and there maybe needs to a an aero tweek to allow closer racing but if you make it too easy to overtake then you'll always have the fastest car winning regardless of where they qualify.
"

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6. Posted by nonickname, 29/03/2018 7:01

"BooHoo 1700 workers on the team and no one,including Toto that understand the rules. Michael pulled a similar trick with a drive through penalty years age.
Idiots all of them.
MotoGP is the only place for viewers looking for racing. You get the whole deal, Moto2, Moto2 and MotoGp in one viewing and so many passes, including on the last corner of the last la. that you just lose count.
Please, those who want to see racing as it should be, go and take a look. That is the only way you will wake up F1, by not watching it.
"

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7. Posted by 79-626inHI, 29/03/2018 3:30

"It is true that Mercedes with all its highly skilled staff and computing power failed to prepare for all eventualities. However, it is poor management by the FIA that
"while those cars on track were speed limited under VSC rules, Vettel, and the other drivers that pitted at that time, were able to speed up from the safety car line until reaching the pit lane speed limit."
Other cars also apparently were gifted this same undeserved advantage. Come on FIA, it shouldn't be that hard to also speed limit the pit entrance during VSC so the competition remains fair for everyone.
"

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8. Posted by Ro, 28/03/2018 22:56

"A bug in the software? PATHETIC. I thought it was MOTOR RACING. Look at MOTOGP....no car to pit radio...no wings....Riders that want to race....No coast to save fuel....F1 is just not pure racing anymore."

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9. Posted by Oldbuzzard, 28/03/2018 22:35

"How do you think Colin Chapman, Ken Tyrrell, Giancarlo Minardi, Peter Warr and others now gone, did it without computers? Is the racing a lot better now? No? What's the logical solution then? How about another computer to make sure the computer is working correctly? BTW if the virtual safety car works so well (which I think it does) why have the actual safety car at all? As a Yank, I like the cautions and the "bunching up" so the back markers get a leg up on the restart. Some say it's unfair for the leaders to lose their lead, but as Mario Andretti said once one race you lose the next race you may win, it works itself out. "

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