British GP: Mercedes 'hopeful' Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will avoid penalties
World champs give further backing to strategist James Vowles
Last Updated: 10/12/18 12:07pm
Mercedes have admitted they are still not completely certain Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will avoid grid penalties at this weekend's British GP following their car failures in Austria.
Neither Mercedes car made it to the chequered flag at the Red Bull Ring, with Hamilton retiring due to a fuel pump failure and Bottas because of a hydraulics issue which resulted in a broken gearbox.
Hamilton had to take a five-place drop for April's Bahrain GP due to an unscheduled gearbox change following a hydraulics leak in the season-opening Australian GP.
Mercedes technical chief James Allison has described the failures in Austria as "entirely separate" and clarified "neither of them were related in any to the introduction of the new power unit" which Mercedes debuted in France two weeks ago.
But Allison has been unable to provide categorical assurance that Hamilton, chasing a fifth consecutive win at Silverstone, Bottas, in great form this year but out completely out of luck, won't face further punishment in the form of engine-related grid drops this weekend.
"We hope not," Allison said. "We think that both failures were confined to the items which failed and they are both things which can be replaced without breaking into the sealed areas of the car which attract sporting penalties.
"But I say 'we hope not' because every time a car stops in an uncontrolled way where a failure happens and systems are shut down in a way which unusual we can't be completely sure until we have done all the necessary checks that all the bits of the car which are sealed and which do attract penalties weren't affected.
"We have got a bit of work on to make sure we are not taking undue risks with parts which might have had some consequential damage when the car was shut down."
Mercedes backing for Vowles
Allison also tackled questions about the team's failure to pit Hamilton under the Virtual Safety Car triggered by Bottas' retirement.
"It was a mistake, made in error, we should have stopped him," acknowledged Allison.
"We thought the Virtual Safety Car would last for more than one lap, we would see what would happen to the guys behind us, if they stopped or didn't stop, and then make our decision on the second lap. But it didn't last for more than one lap, everyone behind us stopped and we lost out hugely because they had a cheap stop and we had an expensive one. It was a big mistake."
The mistake was immediately publicly acknowledged by chief strategist James Vowles - who rarely speaks out on team radio - with Red Bull boss Christian Horner the latest F1 figure to question whether Vowles' mea culpa was necessary and what it revealed about Mercedes.
"In this particular instance, it was James showing an extremely broad pair of shoulders, standing up and saying 'that was my mistake Lewis and I am sorry for it'," Allison explained.
"It was very characteristic of James but also a measure of how this team operates - where people will hold up their hand when they have made a mistake, knowing that the team's attitude to mistakes is that they are things that we learn from, rather than things that we throw blame around.
"It was a very good example of strong leadership by James trying to explain to Lewis what had happened and the importance of that message meant that James wanted to give it personally rather than pass it through the intermediary of a race engineer."