"One failure would be catastrophic," admits Vowles


Though he heads to Mexico 12 points behind Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton has the comfort of knowing that his car is ultra-reliable.

His one DNF of the season thus far is Monza, where he clashed with Max Verstappen. Indeed, the Mercedes driver has completed 97.2% of the season's 990 race laps thus far, while the Dutchman has completed just 91.3%.

Then again, other than Monza, Silverstone, scene of the infamous clash with Hamilton, is the Dutchman's only other official DNF this year.

Valtteri Bottas suffered accidents at Imola and the Hungaroring along with that infamous sticking wheel nut issue in Monaco, while Sergio Perez' only DNF was when he was taken out by the Finn in Hungary.

In other words, both the Mercedes and Red Bull are pretty much bulletproof, but then again they need to be, for Mercedes Strategy Director, James Vowles admits that just one DNF in the remaining rounds would be "catastrophic".

"We are balancing performance versus reliability to the end of the season," says Vowles in the post-COTA video debrief from Mercedes.

"One failure to finish a race be it because of a chassis or power unit fault would be catastrophic for the championship," he continues, "and as a result of that, we are managing that in the best way possible to the end of the year.

"In the case of Valtteri, that meant taking one further ICE to make sure we had absolutely the best compromise," he adds, referring to the fact that the Finn has taken engine penalties in three of the last four races. "As to whether it improved his performance, yes, a small amount but it is more about the balance across the remainder of the season than one event.

"So, this change, as painful as it was during the Austin Grand Prix, will actually pay dividends across the next few races," he insists.

Speaking in Austin, Toto Wolff was unable to confirm whether Hamilton, who took a grid penalty in Turkey after taking on a new ICE, faces taking another in the remaining rounds.

"I can't say whether we will be taking one and what the percentage is," admitted the Austrian, "but obviously the risk is still there.

"What is difficult to evaluate is do you want to pre-empt the situation and take another penalty and take the hit or do you want to really run it and possibly risk a DNF, and that is a discussion that is happening as we speak, and we haven't come to the right answers yet."

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Published: 29/10/2021
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