After being in third position in the opening stages of the Australian Grand Prix race, Lewis Hamilton dropped to fifth place after Sergio Pérez overtook him and George Russell benefited from the safety car after stopping in the pits .
The Mercedes finished in third and fourth place with Max Verstappen retiring in the closing laps, with the young Brit ahead of the seven-time champion by just one second. Before crossing the finish line, the seven-time Grand Circus winner told his team on the radio that “they had put him in a really difficult position”, but clarified the meaning of the message, as many thought it was a subtle criticism.
The Englishman commented that it was due to his W13 overheating, and that is something that the Brackley men explained days later in a video on their YouTube channel with the director of strategy, James Vowles .
“It was about cooling the power unit, and keeping the engine cool over the course of the race,” said the Silver Arrows member. “We push everything to the limit, as you can imagine, and one of those things is engine cooling, which is achieved by closing the bodywork or changing the design of the gills at the rear of the car.
“That decision is made on Saturday, but we race on Sunday, 24 hours later, and in this circumstance, the temperature was maybe one or two degrees higher than we expected. As a result, we ourselves, and not only us, will have heard it Of all the teams, we were right at the limit where the engine can handle in terms of cooling,” continued Vowles.
“Over the course of the race, when you’re following a car, Lewis [Hamilton], he had to compromise what he was doing. He had to get away from the dirty air of the car in front, and make sure he was getting that fresh, clean air through the radiators to lower the temperature of the power unit”, explained the person in charge of the Mercedes strategy.
“But doing that makes fighting with the car in front very difficult, and that’s why he said that message,” said the Briton.
The race of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton to third and fourth place helped the German team retain second place in the constructors’ championship, ahead of Red Bull, who only added Pérez after Verstappen abandoned.
However, the Germans have struggled to catch up with the energy drinkers and Ferrari in terms of outright pace as they continue to battle the porpoising that plagues them so much.
Although Hamilton and Russell were able to put up a fight against the Mexican from Red Bull, Vowles stressed that they are still behind the leaders: “In terms of where we were in Melbourne, we have to face reality, we were a second behind Ferrari in the qualifying and in the race, Leclerc was in his own league.
“Bahrain ended up being our best race so far, albeit with a very significant gap to the front,” he continued. “However, at each appointment, we have a blueprint of what we need to test, try and develop in this car, and I’m sure the rest have the same.”
“The key is this, we have to start to recover the difference with the leaders,” said the head of the Mercedes strategy area.