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Hamilton not to blame for pitlane error

NEWS STORY
09/09/2020

Mercedes says that Lewis Hamilton was not responsible for pitting when the pitlane was closed during Sunday's Italian Grand Prix, as German team takes measures to ensure there are no repeats.

The pitlane was closed after officials opted to push Kevin Magnussen's stricken car into the pitlane rather than push it into a gap in the safety barrier.

However, in the 11 seconds between when the FIA official made the move, the Mercedes crew failed to realise.

"In terms of the sequence there were two pieces of information to tell us that the pitlane entry had been closed," explains Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles in the team's latest video.

"The first was there were boards around the track that have a cross on it, a red cross indicating that's the state, and when the driver sees that, he knows he must stay out.

"The second piece of information is we have TV screens in front of us. One of those is called page three and it contains a number of messages that the FIA wants to send us. That could be a yellow flag or safety car deployed, and one of those was the pitlane entry was closed."

Because they were focussing on Hamilton's impending pit stop, the team misses the all-important message about the pitlane being closed.

"This was a key point in the race where the entire field would have come into the pitlane," Vowles continued. "Lewis came on asking for a different set of tyres, we were reviewing whether or not we had time, whether it was the correct decision or not.

"These were all conversations that take just a few seconds, but they all add up. What you are not doing particularly is looking for a single line on the screen to indicate the pitlane entry was closed.

"Both Shov (engineering chief, Andrew Shovlin) and myself have been through similar instances," he admits, "2016 was the last time this happened in Brazil, it happened twice there but it was clear that the pitlane entry would be closed then. There was a crash and almost a huge amount of debris, you wouldn't want to drive into the pitlane at that stage.

"This was different, it didn't really prompt us to necessarily look at the screen and look for a single line that was hidden amongst other information and we missed it. It didn't take us long to spot it."

While Hamilton was to fall foul of the missed message, it was spotted in time to prevent Valtteri Bottas making the same mistake.

"We were able to still keep Valtteri out," he says, "and for reference we can hear from other team radio that it took them about ten seconds to notice it as well and that ten seconds was the crucial period, because Lewis was so far in the lead of the race he was just able to come in.

"With all the benefit of hindsight we know what we would do differently now. We can put systems in place in software that will enable us to find and ensure that we see these critical messages in just a few seconds."

Vowles stresses that despite speculation - and Hamilton's own apology - the world champion was not to blame.

"He was just turning into Parabolica at that point, still at full racing speed," says Vowles. "The driver there is trying to control the vehicle and just at that point also was getting himself down to the correct delta time for the safety car and preparing for the stop because we had already called him to come into the pitlane. There was a lot going on for him, and it's not typical to be looking at a board that is on the far left-hand side of the track.

"There were two boards," he added. "The first would have been very difficult for him to see, one was on the left-hand side but as I say he was in control of the vehicle looking at the dash and he didn't see it.

"As you come towards the pitlane entry if you look on board with Lewis, there is actually no indication at that point that the pitlane is at all closed. There are no further boards, there is no light, there is nothing to tell him anymore that it should be closed.

"So, from his perspective it would have been a very difficult call, just a matter of seconds to look up, look in the correct place and make a judgement call."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Hobgoblin, 10/09/2020 11:44

"@Carlh94 - did you read the article, or just the headline?"

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by jimclark, 10/09/2020 1:10

"I am not a Hamilton fan, but I am fair. In response to Carlh94, the other drivers were further back than Lewis so had more time to become aware of the closed pits. Also, I watched Lewis' scooting he was not "causing people to scatter out of his path!". No bias based fake news here, eh?"

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3. Posted by Carlh94, 09/09/2020 23:17

"Of course Hamilton was blameless! It’s just odd that about 16 other drivers managed to note the pit lane was closed despite it being an ideal time to pit. I do think that Hamilton should have received a further penalty for exceeding the pit lane speed on his silly little scooter, causing people to scatter out of his path!
However, the man his always blameless!"

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