Lewis Hamilton demands Mercedes fix after Austrian GP failures
Hamilton loses lead of world championship after race retirement; "This is definitely the worst weekend that I can remember for a long time," says Lewis; British GP, live on Sky F1, this weekend
By Peter Gill and James Galloway
Last Updated: 10/12/18 12:18pm
Lewis Hamilton has demanded "bulletproof" reliability from his Mercedes team in the wake of the Silver Arrows' double disaster at the Austrian GP.
Hamilton and Mercedes will travel to this week's British GP without the lead of either world championship after both of the team's cars broke down on race day at the Red Bull Ring.
Hamilton was forced to retire because of a loss of fuel pressure while luckless team-mate Valtteri Bottas, whose retirement triggered a catastrophic strategic misjudgement from the Mercedes pitwall, suffered a hydraulics failure.
"This is definitely the worst weekend that I can remember for a long time," said Hamilton. "I am not going to lie, we're going to have to work on all areas. We can't afford to throw away points. We need to find a bulletproof method to move forward."
After building up a comfortable lead through the opening laps, Hamilton's race unravelled spectacularly in Austria.
First he lost the lead after Mercedes failed to pit him under the Virtual Safety Car, a mistake which relegated the world champion from first to fourth. Then, after overbaking his tyres in a bid to recover lost ground, he was overtaken by title rival Sebastian Vettel, who now leads the standings by a single point.
Finally, he was forced to retire from the race when his engine lost power, bringing to a close the longest run of points-scoring finishes in F1 history. Before Sunday, Hamilton's last race retirement was 33 races ago at the Malaysia GP in 2016.
"We have lost a lot of points just through bad calls or reliability," Hamilton rued.
Bottas' misfortune this term has been even more stark, most notably in April's Azerbaijan GP when a late puncture cost the Finn victory and during last week's French GP when he was hit at the first corner by Vettel.
What the papers are saying
'Mercedes have dominated the sport since 2014, but they are crumbling under the fiercer competition provided by both Ferrari and Red Bull this year' - The Daily Telegraph.
'Mercedes fell to pieces in more ways than one on a day described by the team as cruel and brutal. The real problem for Mercedes is that it is not an isolated incident. The team, so dominant in recent years, have shown signs of cracking now pushed by a resurgent Ferrari' - The Guardian.
What Mercedes are saying
"This is definitely the worst weekend that I can remember for a long time" - Lewis Hamilton.
"The luck I'm having this year feels like a bit of a bad joke at the moment" - Valtteri Bottas.
"For me and for the team, this is the most painful day of the last six years" - Toto Wolff.
"We weren't reliable enough, we didn't make the right strategy call, our starts weren't good enough and we didn't manage the tyres as well as we could have done" - Andrew Shovlin.
Mercedes' 2018 tactical errors
Australian GP: Mercedes and Hamilton lost a race they appeared to have well won when a glitch in their timing systems underestimated the driver's vulnerability to a Virtual Safety Car. Leading the race comfortably from pole, Hamilton had already made his one pit stop under normal racing conditions and was running second on the road to Vettel, who had yet to stop and was running an extended opening stint. But the appearance of the VSC when Romain Grosjean's Haas stopped on track changed all that. While Hamilton was forced to drive at a controlled speed on the track, Vettel was able to pit, run at normal speed in the pit lane, and re-emerge on to the circuit in the lead of a race he went on to win.
Chinese GP: In Shanghai it was a full Safety Car that wrecked a race which was heading Mercedes' way, this time with Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull, running third and fifth at the time, stopped their two drivers for fresh soft tyres, whereas the rest of the leading runners remained on mediums. Hamilton had been between Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo on the track but Mercedes suspected there would not be much difference between the two compounds, so prioritised keeping track position. However, Ricciardo was able to scythe through from fifth on his fresh rubber and overtook Bottas for victory with 11 laps to go. Hamilton slipped to fifth on the road, although was promoted back up to fourth when Verstappen was penalised for hitting Vettel.
Austrian GP: Mercedes' chief strategist James Vowles apologised to Hamilton over the radio for failing to pit the then-race leader under the Virtual Safety Car in an error that dropped the world champion to fourth. Toto Wolff conceded "we had half a lap to react, and we didn't" as the team's pit wall frantically tried to calculate how their rivals behind might play it. As it happened, Red Bull and Ferrari both double-stacked their cars and Mercedes were left to look flat-footed.