Despite what the Internet will tell you, simple human error and confusion cost Lewis Hamilton the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.
If nothing else, it was a timely reminder that at the heart of our sport lay not just computers, but banks of people making split-second decisions – and sometimes they get it wrong.
“We simply got the calculation wrong. We thought that we would have a bigger gap – a couple of seconds more – but we didn’t.”
It would be fair to say that Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff has endured a difficult couple of days following this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.
When Max Verstappen misjudged the braking distance of Romain Grosjean into St Devote on lap 64, the resulting crash caused Race Control to, first, initiate a Virtual Safety Car period (VSC), before assigning the real safety car approximately thirty seconds later.
Amidst a cacophony of radio noise, confusion, misreading’s and changing circumstances, the Mercedes Formula One team and Lewis Hamilton conspired amongst themselves to blow a significant advantage at the front, eventually costing Hamilton the race.
Mercedes still won – although the victory was celebrated by Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel taking 2nd spot – but for a dominant weekend’s performance, Hamilton would be rewarded with just a 3rd place.
The reigning champion tends to wear his emotions on his sleeve and the shock on the Briton’s face palpable, but let us please dispense with the nonsensical conspiracy theories – those meandering thought bubbles really are not worth the time of day.
Shortly after the race, the first piece fell into place courtesy of Hamilton just as the safety car had been called. Glancing up to one of the big screens, Hamilton noted, “I saw the team out in the pit-lane […] and thought Nico was pitting,” before adding, “I came in with full confidence that the others had done the same.”
In reality, Rosberg had not stopped and the Mercedes crew’s presense in the pitbox was a sign of readiness in case Ferrari chose to stop, yet the red team had no intention of pitting Vettel, as revealed by Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene. “In the key moment of the race Inaki Rueda, our race strategist, told everybody to keep calm and stay out on track, while the Mercedes came in for fresh tyres.”
As far as the Scuderia were concerned, stopping would have done little to improve their situation – tyre wear was still solid, and although pressures were dropping behind the safety car, track position is king at Monaco.
Just prior to the safety car, Vettel was still lapping in the late 1’19s–early 1’20s range while in clear air, with Rosberg running to a similar pace. It is highly unlikely that fresh rubber would improve Vettel’s chances – something that Hamilton would later find out for himself.
Out front, Hamilton, was clearly enjoying himself and was stretching his gap to Rosberg by approximately half-a-second to one second per lap. The race had long since been bagged by the Englishman.
By the time the race had been neutralised on lap 64, Hamilton’s lead was a pretty 19.1s; however during the initial changeover from Virtual Safety Car to the actual safety car, that gap extended to 25.7s – and this is where Mercedes engaged a sort of fuzzy logic between the driver and pitwall.
Fearing dropping tyre pressures and under the assumption that Rosberg was stopping or had already stopped, it appears Hamilton triggered an impression that his tyres were badly degrading. According to Wolff, “There was the information that the temperatures dropped and that there was no grip any more on the prime tyres – the numbers just added up.”
Come the 65th tour, the leader had caught the safety car in the final sector, slowing significantly as he lined up behind Bernd Mayländer. In this short period, Hamilton lost twelve seconds to this field, with Wolff acknowedging that the lack of a GPS system around Monaco served to mask just how much time Hamilton had surrendered to the rest of the field.
“We’ll analyse and work out what went wrong, but we’ll do that collectively and try to improve for the future,” said Wolff. “We we’re in a situation of waging common sense against data. Common sense is okay, but it doesn’t win races in the long run. You have to rely on data – and now we have to find out why we got it wrong today.”
As Hamilton emerged out of the pitlane, Rosberg had long since gone through, while Vettel pipped the Mercedes man to the pitlane exit timing line by only a couple of metres. For all his pushing on supersofts in the later tours, Hamilton could not break through back into at least 2nd place and indeed had to fight a minor rearguard action from Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) too.
In all the noise, a mistake was made and contrary to popular opinion, these happen from time-to-time. For this one mistake, Mercedes have also taken twenty-one race wins, as well as a Drivers’ and Constructors’ title since the beginning of 2014 and they will win many more Grands Prix this year.
For now, the championship lead has had another chunk removed from it and the gap between Hamilton and Rosberg is just ten points. The biggest question is ‘will this galvanise Hamilton again or will Rosberg emerge stronger?’
Antonio Giovinazzi won the 74th Grand Prix de Pau today following a hectic battle with Jake Dennis that lasted much of the race.
Maximilian Günther achieved his first FIA European F3 podium; while van Amersfoort’s Charles Leclerc assumed his third top three finish with a drive to 3rd.
The win only came to Giovinazzi late on. Having started on new tyres, Giovinazzi chased polesitter Dennis closely for much of the race.
An early safety car period kept the field artificially close, but upon the lap five restart, the Briton seized control for much of the event. At the two-thirds mark, Dennis began to struggle with a damaged steering, offering the feisty Giovinazzi a golden opportunity – the Volkswagen-powered man was not about to let this slip.
Despite this, Dennis fought bravely and continued to manage the gap to Giovinazzi with each corner; however as the Italian pressed harder, Dennis’ problems became more and more apparent.
From lap 17, the gap shrank from 1.3s to just 0.2s with Giovinazzi forcing Dennis to defend harder. Amidst all this, Dennis’ laps times were beginning to struggle as his pace fell from the late 1’10s to the late 1’11s over the course of the next four laps and then down to 1’12”3s on lap 23.
Sensing the opportunity, Giovinazzi looked down the inside of the first bend, only to be denied. Thereafter, the Jagonya Ayam Carlin racer continued to push Dennis harder – dancing left and then right – until eventually Dennis ran out of luck and ran wide in the Descente Poeymirau, allowing Giovinazzi through into the lead.
Thereafter the 21-year-old pulled away from the increasingly struggling Dennis, with the Briton falling out of contention quickly as the end of the race neared. Running to the flag untroubled, Giovinazzi became the 10th Italian driver to win the prestigious event.
“Being able to win the Grand Prix de Pau, a race that so many great drivers such as Lewis Hamilton have won, is fantastic. Of course, I am happy that I have made it onto the podium again in the ninth race of the season,” said the delighted victor. He added, “The race wasn’t easy for me. After the start, I was second, but I didn’t want to take too many risks. After about 15 laps, I tried to put more pressure on Jake Dennis in front of me. When he had a technical problem, I overtook him and I was in the lead.”
Unfortunately for Dennis, the 19-year-old could only fall further backward as the race aged, but did so in dramatic fashion. With his times dropping to the 1’16s range, Günther and Leclerc were quickly on Dennis’ rear and were through on lap 24 to complete the podium.
It was another positive drive for Günther, who – after several close attempts – finally secured his maiden F3 podium, although Leclerc did not make it an easy ride. “I am really delighted with this 2nd place after having just missed out on a podium finish a couple of times already. My start was good and my speed was better than in the first two races here at Pau as well. This time, I was also able to control the gap to Charles, who was behind me.”
Following a good start, Leclerc clung the back of Günther and while it could be argued that the Mücke racer was slightly slower than Leclerc’s van Amersfoort entry, there was little the Monegasque Leclerc could do to force a path through to 2nd place. After the finish, Leclerc was rather resigned to the fact there was little else that he could have done to beat Günther. “First of all, I am happy that I didn’t lose any positions at the start for the first time this weekend. I tried to put Maximilian under pressure, but he drove a good race and didn’t give me any opportunity to overtake.”
Another big winner late on was Lance Stroll. After the safety car period, Stroll lost two positions in quick succession, falling to 10th; however the Canadian took Felix Rosenqvist on lap six and capitalised five laps to take Alessio Lorandi when Alexander Albon balked the Italian Lorandi.
Instantly Albon too fell buy the wayside, when it became clear his car had been damaged in the interchange, promoting Stroll to 6th. That became 5th place when Markus Pömmer was made to serve a drive through penalty for not lining up in his grid slot correctly.
Stroll would eventually climb to 4th when Dennis’ problems saw his fall through the field in the final two laps, with Dennis taking the finish in a disappointing 23rd place. “From the second lap, I had to deal with a steering issue which was caused by a damaged suspension, but it wasn’t that bad at first. I was still pulling away from Giovinazzi. Then after about 10 laps the car was undriveable but I managed to keep a half second gap. Eventually though, it wouldn’t turn left anymore. It is quite frustrating cause there was nothing I could do.”
In the shuffling of the order, Arjun Maini came home 5th – another good result for the Indian rookie. Maini was running 7th entering the final lap; however Lorandi was held up by the ailing Dennis, allowing Maini through to the top five.
Rosenqvist scored a 6th place finish, giving the Swede ten vital points in the championship, while Lorandi had to settle for 7th. George Russell battled hard against Sam MacLeod much of the running and would come home in 8th position. MacLeod received damage when he clattered Dennis on the final lap, promoting Mikkel Jensen and Santino Ferrucci to 9th and 10th respectively.
As expected at Pau, there was some chaos at the start when Kang Ling went over the top of Tatiana Calderon on the climb up to Pont Oscar, with Ling left stranded on the rear of Calderon as the came to a halt. It was a completely unnecessary incident that should have been avoided by Ling and yet another dent in what has been a difficult start to the year for Calderon.
This is a victory that allows Giovinazzi to extend his lead in the European Formula 3 Championship to 15 points over Leclerc. In two weeks time, the field visits a very different but equally historic venue, when they move to Monza for the 4th round of what has been an enthralling season thus far.
Jake Dennis claimed his 2nd FIA European F3 race win of the weekend at Pau, although chaos reigned behind him.
The Briton led for the duration, initially from Maximilian Günther and then later from eventual runner-up Charles Leclerc, but never looked challenged.
Antonio Giovinazzi completed the podium placing’s – his eight podium in a row.
Dennis made a very good start from pole, while Leclerc’s sluggish getaway allowed Günther through into 2nd.
The Briton would have little opportunity to escape from his pursuers though – the first safety car emerged on only lap two, when Matt Soloman clattered into the barriers at Pont Oscar.
From the third lap restart, Dennis immediately pulled a gap on Günther, eventually stretching it out to 3.5s by the fourteenth tour; this too came to nothing when Julio Moreno stopped on track causing another stoppage.
The delay was shortlived, with the restart coming on lap 17. This was Günther’s best opportunity – a great restart allowed him to hook onto the rear of Dennis; however when the move did not materialise, Leclerc attempted, unsuccessfully, to take 2nd spot in the Virage de la Gare. As the pair came out together, Giovinazzi saw a gap down the inside of Leclerc, but the Italian was unable to complete the move, ensuring Dennis escaped and that Günther continued to lead the 2nd place battle/
However this green flag stint lasted less than a lap when an overeager Alessio Lorandi attempted to dive down the inside of Michel Beretta in the hairpin, causing a third neutralisation.
This would prove crucial for Günther – in one sense, the Mücke racer was offered yet another opportunity to grab the lead from Dennis; however as the group were about to restart, Günther clipped the rear of the Prema Powerteam man, damaging his front wing in the process.
Restarting on lap nineteen, Dennis again pulled away from Günther, but Leclerc stuck to the rear of the German and forced a way by in the Curbe des Tribunes.
This additional delay for Günther opened the door for Giovinazzi, who dived down the inside of the Lycée hairpin, only for the pair to touch slightly as Günther could not defend any further. Giovinazzi escaped the incident without damage; however Günther stalled by the kerb, partially blocking the road.
Behind them, George Russell had almost completed a pass on Lance Stroll, but the pairing were squeezed into Brandon Maïsano when they came upon the stranded Günther. This caused a minor pile-up, which involved approximately a dozen cars forcing the stewards to bring out the red flag.
After a nine-minute delay, the race restarted with Dennis leading Leclerc and Giovinazzi; but there was nothing that either follower could do to displace the leader and even Giovinazzi fell away from Leclerc after a time.
For Dennis, this was not just a 2nd win of the season, but his 2nd win in Formula 3 as a whole. Now 4th in the standings, the British racer is in a great position to jump up to 3rd in the championship, should his run of form continue tomorrow.
Despite taking three points back off of Giovinazzi’s lead, Leclerc appeared disappointed. A difficult start cost the Monegasque racer a shot at the lead and placed him in 3rd place once for the second time today.
Although the van Amersfoort racer recovered the 2nd spot – unlike in today’s Race One – Leclerc is a young man looking for victories in order to grab the top spot in the championship.
Giovinazzi’s move on Günther solidified the Italian’s eighth podium from eight races, but crucially signposted his new found aggressiveness and confidence. Previous years may have seen the Jagonya Ayam Carlin racer either make rash decisions in the car, or spend too long hiding in traffic; however this year a far more mature Giovinazzi getting on with the job of winning or scoring big points.
The big surprise of the race came from Arjun Maini. The Indian rookie quietly went about his race and was sitting in a credible 5th, when the retired Günther gave him 4th.
Maini spent much of the event under the scrutiny of Felix Rosenqvist, who made moves from 8th and was running 6th, when he forced a way by Alexander Albon before Virage de la Gare on lap 21. Albon would then lose out to George Russell two laps from the end, demoting the Thai tracer to 7th place at the finish.
Markus Pommer ended the race in 8th having also been taken by Russell (lap 22). Sam MacLeod surprisingly scored his first points of the year when he came home 9th, while Lance Stroll followed the British racer home in 10th place – both MacLeod and Stroll lost out to Russell on the red flag restart.
Jake Dennis swept to a stellar first FIA European F3 race victory in style at Pau this morning.
In a race twice interrupted by the safety car, the Prema Powerteam driver led from the start, heading a close Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles Leclerc for the duration.
Although Dennis’ lead was never more than 0.8s over Giovinazzi, the Briton rarely looked like losing this race, such was his prowess around the French streets, despite the 19-year-old claiming he was suffering from a car issue in early stages of the competition.
Yet at the same time, Dennis was never in a position to relax. If anything, this race was more about the top three drivers pushing hard for the fastest laps throughout – a accolade eventually claimed by Leclerc – with the trio settling into laps around the late 1’10s and early 1’11s for much of the running.
For each occasion the race was halted, Dennis did more than enough to gap to Giovinazzi when the race restarted and while the Italian regained the gap to Dennis, Giovinazzi was also watching his mirrors for the feisty Leclerc.
Indeed Dennis was most under threat from Leclerc at the start. Although a decent start, Dennis’ van Amersfoort rival enjoyed an even better getaway initially with Leclerc drawing close through Courbe des Tribunes; however Leclerc was forced to withdraw as the bend tightened up, allowing the super fast starting Giovinazzi through to take 2nd position prior to Virage de la Gare, after which Giovinazzi’s chase began.
Come 27 laps, Dennis claimed his first European Formula 3 victory and with an additional two pole positions in his pocket for Races 2 and 3, the Mercedes-powered man is in a good position to add to that tally this weekend.
Giovinazzi was a winner to a degree too. By taking Leclerc, the Italian extended his lead at the top of the championship standings to 8 points, with fellow contender Felix Rosenqvist falling off the radar somewhat thanks to a 13th place finish.
This race was no thriller by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a joy to watch three young drivers of quality pushing to the maximum within such tight confines.
Behind the leading trio, Maximilian Günther continues to showcase his talents with drive to 4th place, while holding Alexander Albon at bay, while Alessio Lorandi picked up his first points of the year with a drive to 6th.
Lorandi’s top six came after an incident with Callum Illot took the Red Bull driver out of contention. Mikkel Jensen claimed 7th ahead of George Russell, although Russell did his best to force his way around the Dane and almost lost a place to 9th place Lance Stroll as a result. Stroll initially followed Prema Powerteam teammate Brandon Maïsano, but took the Frenchman just prior to the second safety car period on lap 15 – the pair came home 9th and 10th.
Both safety car periods were caused by cars hitting barriers. The first was when the then 15th placed Dorian Boccolacci stopped after the Chicane du Croisement on lap 12. After a brief neutralisation, the race was live for less than a lap when Michele Beretta crashed under Pont Oscar on lap 15.
The timing of the first safety car period caused some confusion between Gustavo Menezes and Felix Rosenqvist, with the latter seemingly having believed he had passed Menezes before the yellow flags emerged. Rosenqvist was later ordered to give the position back, although it came to nothing when Menezes dropped down the order on the final lap anyway – however it is unlikely Rosenqvist will be in any way happy with 13th position when there is a title to fight for.
One of the more curious elements of motorsport is that, sometimes, the quickest driver is not necessarily the one who is flashiest on track.
Indeed, being smooth and calculating more often than not proves to be fastest way to transverse a circuit, as drivers maximise the limits of a layout without going overboard.
Or even without needing to go overboard.
Those in complete control of their machines rarely ever need to be flashy, or constantly on the ragged edge. The tales of drivers being the absolute fastest while throwing their car around violently are a sort of Hollywood invention.
All that serves to do is waste time and when the gaps in modern motorsport are so often covered by tenths, hundredths or even thousandths, it does little good to throw them away by being flashy.
It might look impressive on television, but it is less like to garner top results and impress those who need to be impressed.
A laptop, charger, EU plug converter, two pairs of trousers, five pairs of socks, five pairs of underwear, four T-shirts, a shirt and jumper, notepads, hard drive, Dictaphone, pens, pass and season media pass.
Arriving in Toulouse last night – and desperately on the hunt for food (tricky on the approach to midnight) – I poured all of these things on to the hotel bed and crashed out within moments.
It was, in a nutshell, my life stuffed inside a bag. To a degree. Further travelling this morning – a 6.10am train to Pau – bought further mileage and thankfully and extra three hours of sleep.
This may explain the occasional discomfort in my lower back.
But for now, the second Formula 3 free practice session has just finished under red flags and the field – split into two groups for practice and qualifying – have taken in their laps of the circuit under very damp conditions.
Remaining virtually unchanged since its inception as a circuit over eight decades ago, Pau will easily prove to be the toughest task yet for the new European Formula 3 runners, as they take to the town’s streets for the first time at this level.
While it is quick in places, it also possesses a number of slow and tight corners and the bumpiness of the road make it a very difficult challenge. It was here last year that Ed Jones’ season unraveled when he fractured two vertebrae during qualifying after getting the Foch chicane wrong and hitting the adjacent wall.
There is an added dimension to Pau, for of the thirty-four entrants, only thirty-two can actually take to the races, ensuring that a couple will go home early or at least miss a race or two should their respective qualifying positions place them in and around the bubble.
However if a driver does not qualify for any of the weekend’s three races, that raises other questions too – and pointers that have not had to be asked in quite a long time. For example, should any of those who do not qualify be regular backmarkers anyway, will it signal a pulling of the plug on full season deals?
When we think of these dilemmas, it is often too easy to focus on the merits (or the lack thereof) of the driver and completely miss the bigger picture. For example, if a programme is closed down, could that potentially leave mechanics, engineers and other assorted personnel in a position where they are temporarily out of work due to cancelled contracts.
Unlike categories such as GP2 or GP3, Formula 3 does not have a mandated full season entry, where teams take fines should they not have a minimum compliment of drivers.
In those series’, teams are fined should they not show up, or only bring a single driver – a situation, which in some cases, has led to teams to run a driver under budget, because the losses from that are less significant than taking a fine from the series. The likes of European Formula 3 – while remaining reasonably stringent – are still more flexible when it comes to market forces and driver allocations.
It is a question that I will come back to at a later time…
Alongside the regulars for this weekend is once-off entrant Gustav Malja. The Formula Renault 3.5 racer opted to enter the Pau Grand Prix with EuroInternational, as he prepares for his next FR3.5 race on the streets of Monaco, which comes next week.
The Swede is an amiable and confident young man who delighted in giving a colleague and I a step-by-step imagined lap of the Monte Carlo circuit, as memorised from the simulator.
It was one of those rare occasions when a driver offers an insight into how they go about their business of being a racing driver. Alas, there will be no Monaco for me in 2015 – other “issues” have got in the way of that unfortunately.
But first Pau and unfortunately it would appear the damp clouds have followed to the Pyrénées. If nothing else, it could make the races very interesting indeed.
I’m not going to lie. I am pretty exhausted. Sitting in a Frankfurt Airport terminal, just waiting for the flight home, it has been difficult to pull most of the weekend together.
Maybe that will come this evening when a chance to relax has been taken, but for now, my head is one large bag of fuzz. Even my hair has decided to go stylishly AWOL.
During what was a full weekend, Audi took plenty of glory with a victory in the WEC at Spa-Francorchamps, two wins at Hockenheim at the DTM, as well as a successful launch of the Audi TT Cup – the newest support on the DTM programme.
Of WEC, I will eventually get to take it in later this week, but for now I think I need a day off and a day away from cars. It’s the only sensible thing to do.
Charles Leclerc took his 2nd FIA European Formula 3 win today with a stellar performance at a wet and dour Hockenheimring.
With light fading, the Monegasque teen made the best of the conditions to beat Felix Rosenqvist to the flag after 18 laps, while Antonio Giovinazzi came home 3rd to make it six podiums finishes from six races.
Such were the damp conditions; the race began under the safety car, with poleman Rosenqvist leading the way. The green emerged on lap two ensuring only a brief neutralisation, allowing the 2nd place Leclerc to chase his experienced Swedish rival.
Although Rosenqvist initially stretched the gap to 1.5s by the fourth lap, Leclerc quickly came upon the rear of the leading Prema Powerteam entry and began to closely track Rosenqvist in a battle that lasted almost ten laps.
The fight for the lead was a tight one in
As Leclerc closed in on Rosenqvist, the sector times closed together and on numerous occasions the van Amersfoort man looked to be edging toward taking Rosenqvist in the hairpin, only for the Prema Powerteam racer to hold him at bay.
The battle was at its most fierce on lap 12. Crossing the line just 0.5s shy of the front man, Leclerc proved almost too close to Rosenqvist at the hairpin, as the tip of his nose gently touched the rear of Rosenqvist’s machine, although no damage was reported.
Leclerc stayed with the leader though and brought the gap down to just 0.2s at the next time of asking, before finally forcing the issue on lap 14. A look down the inside of Rosenqvist – again at the hairpin – unsteadied the leader, causing the Prema man to stutter upon acceleration and allowing Leclerc to sweep ahead.
The new leader would not have much time to steady – within half-a-lap, Martin Cao and Pietro Fittipaldi tangled in the stadium section, with Fittipaldi’s Fortec entry becoming stuck by the edge of the track.
The safety car emerged for two laps, bringing the field back together, but it would not stop Leclerc who merely pulled away from Rosenqvist at the lap 16 restart, eventually to win by 2.9s after 18 tours.
Although beginning to struggle for grip, Rosenqvist was still able to pull a four second gap over the Giovinazzi / Maximilian Günther battle; a fight decided in favour of Giovinazzi when Günther spun in turn one on the penultimate lap. Once again, Günther’s performance proved noteworthy, as the rookie again spent much of the running holding steady against his more experienced rival.
Both Giovinazzi and Günther would have further adventures on the final tour when first the Italian almost lost his Jagonya Ayam Carlin machine in the stadium section, while the recovering Günther was punted by Santino Ferrucci in Mercedes. Ferrucci had earlier forced Lance Stroll off the road at the hairpin and these actions would result in a 20-second time penalty, dropping the Fortec teen from 5th to 28th.
Amidst the bumping and grinding Mikkel Jensen moved up to 4th – easily his highest finish in his rookie year – ahead of Günther and Stroll.
Markus Pömmer battled with Jake Dennis over 7th and 8th for much of the running, with the final German F3 champion emerging ahead of the Briton, while rookies Alexander Albon (9th) and Callum Ilot (10th) assumed the final points places. It was a less than ideal result for Ilot, who was punted out of 5th place on lap two by an overeager Jensen.