How Mercedes made it a fair fight between Hamilton and Rosberg

2014 Bahrain Grand Prix

The gripping battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg made the Bahrain Grand Prix a classic race.

Not only did Mercedes allow their two drivers to race each other, they did what they could not to give an advantage to either driver. What unfolded was a great fight and a fair one.

Limbering up

Lap From To Message
Formation lap Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton Rear tyres are coming up nicely as well. So front brakes need a bit of work.
Formation lap Unknown Nico Rosberg Brakes are starting to come up, tyres are 8.5 front, 9.5 rear. And gears are learnt.

As Rosberg leads Hamilton to the grid, both drivers are given the usual messages about bringing their brakes and tyres up to temperature. Rosberg is told his tyre temperatures are 108.5C at the front and 109.5C at the rear.

Hamilton seizes the initiative

3 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton So Nico at 0.9, he has DRS

Hamilton got a fractionally better start than Rosberg and was able to take the lead at the first corner. He had to defend hard from his team mate at turn four, forcing him wide.

After lap three Rosberg dropped out of DRS range until they neared the end of their first stint.

The first stint unfolds

5 Nico Rosberg Tony Ross I need information on fuel consumption compared to the other car.
5 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg So you are saving more fuel than your team mate, but continue to save. Gap to Massa, 2.7. You have DRS.
6 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton So just look after that left-front. It looks like we have a little more understeer than the other car.
7 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg So remember Nico, we have the alternative strategy which we’ll be going for which means you need to go longer on this first stint, looking after the tyres.
7 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton So let us know if it’s the front or rears that are taking the punishment.
7 Lewis Hamilton Peter Bonnington Front-left and left-rear. Got too much front wing.

Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2014The two cars were in a holding pattern for much of the first stint: tyre and fuel conservation were the name of the game for both.

Rosberg had a reminder of the strategic situation on lap seven. It is common practice among teams for the leading driver to have first call on strategy, as allowing the following driver to pit first could help them jump ahead via the ‘undercut’.

At this point Hamilton was on course for the preferred strategy and Rosberg the “alternative”. This meant Rosberg would be the first driver to use the slower medium tyres – hence he would extend his first stint on the soft tyres.

Unless, of course, he was able to pass Hamilton and take first call on strategy.

Fuel conservation symmetry

12 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg So Nico, go to strat-seven. Both cars strat-seven. Try braking five metres later into turn one.
12 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton And go strat mode seven. Strat mode seven, both cars are making the change.

A dozen laps into the race both drivers were given the instruction to go to ‘strat[egy] mode seven’. As Hamilton was reassured that both drivers had been told to do the same, we can infer they were being told to use a setting which gave less performance, to save fuel, engine life or both.

Obviously if one driver were to turn their engine down and the other didn’t, one would have an immediate advantage – the problem Red Bull failed to keep on top of during the breakdown in trust between their drivers in Malaysia last year.

Rosberg attacks again

18 Nico Rosberg Tony Ross Warn him, that was not on!
18 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg Copy Nico, we need you to go to strat-10, you cannot use strat-six.

On lap 16 Rosberg moved back within DRS range of Hamilton with the aim of taking the lead and priority call on strategy.

Two laps later he went down the inside of his team mate at turn one but Hamilton reclaimed the place. He left his team mate little room at the exit of the corner, which drew a response from Rosberg.

He tried again on the next lap and had the lead for all of four corners – but once again Hamilton took the lead back on the exit of turn four.

Hamilton pits

20 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg Push hard, Nico! Push hard. Fuel is fine, fuel is OK. But you can still do lift and coast to look after the tyres later in the second stint.
21 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton OK, Nico boxing this lap. You are four seconds safe.
21 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg So Nico, need bite-point seven and box, box, box.
22 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg So Nico, this will be a stint on medium tyres.
22 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton OK Lewis, we need to manage these tyres. Get the most out of them, minimise our time on the mediums.
22 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg Already have oversteer now.
24 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg So you’re currently quicker than Lewis. You’re on mediums, he’s on softs. So remember, looking after the tyres on the stint.

At the end of that lap Hamilton made for the pits and took on a second set of soft tyres. Rosberg, wanting to minimise his time on the slower medium tyres, stayed out another two laps, his engineer telling him to push hard.

Hamilton, meanwhile, was reminded he needed to run for as long as possible on his softs to reduce the amount of time spent on the mediums.

Hamilton pulls ahead

29 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton OK Lewis, so relatively speaking, sector one is the weakest.
35 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton OK Lewis, we’re safe on fuel. So no more lift and coast.
35 Lewis Hamilton Peter Bonnington I heard you, man! I’m looking after my tyres.
38 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg So will be rich-6 as the end of this lap. Still if you can find more time it’s helpful.
40 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg So braking later into turn 11 for earlier apex and better exit.
43 Lewis Hamilton Peter Bonnington I’ve got a lot of push at the apex of corners, but I don’t want to go back on my rear- on my brake bias cause I seem to be locking rears.
43 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton OK Lewis if you go diff init three. Diff init three. Then we’ve got two HPP switch adjust. So will be HPP-11 to one. HPP-2 to mode one.
43 Lewis Hamilton Peter Bonnington Is Nico on new tyres?
43 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton Afrim, Lewis. Nico behind on the Soft tyre.
43 Nico Rosberg Tony Ross Should I try and burn fuel behind the Safety Car?
43 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg You can use low gear, high revs to burn fuel. Tyre temperatures are… ten front and ten rear currently. Brake temperatures are even and OK.

With Rosberg on the slower tyres, Hamilton extended his lead to almost ten seconds. Without the Safety Car Rosberg would have had to recover that gap in his final stint and then attack his team mate with whatever tyre life he had left.

But Rosberg was about to get a helping hand from Pastor Maldonado. The Lotus driver flipped Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber over and the Safety Car came out. That meant Rosberg would not only have the benefit of softer tyres than Hamilton for the final stint, but the gap between the pair of them was eradicated.

‘”Bring both cars home”

46 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton So Lewis, obvious I know, but you’re good on fuel so there’s no need to lift and coast. We’re pushing to the flag.
46 Paddy Lowe Lewis Hamilton Lewis, it’s Paddy.
46 Lewis Hamilton Peter Bonnington What’s up?
46 Paddy Lowe Lewis Hamilton Ten laps left to race, can we just make sure we bring both cars home.
46 Lewis Hamilton Peter Bonnington Will the Safety Car let the others catch up?
46 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton They will do, Lewis. They may release it early though.
46 Paddy Lowe Nico Rosberg Nico, it’s Paddy here. There are about ten laps left to race. Can we make sure we just bring both cars home.
46 Nico Rosberg Paddy Lowe OK.

Paddy Lowe’s instruction to both drivers to ensure they finished the race might have been taken as an order to stop fighting. Either they ignored him or it wasn’t an attempt to call off the fight. To their credit, it seems to have been the latter.

Game on

48 Lewis Hamilton Peter Bonnington Got no power!
48 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton OK Lewis, we’re looking into it. All looks OK on the data.
49 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg When you’re ready to attack, it will be strat-6 and you can use the overtake. Battery is 80%.
51 Lewis Hamilton Peter Bonnington Is Nico on strat 6?
51 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton Affirm, we’re just mirroring what they’re doing.
51 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton OK, so let’s go back strat-3 when you can. We’re just going to mirror them.

Rosberg took the fight to Hamilton immediately after the restart.

‘Strat-6′ appears to be Mercedes’ ‘full attack’ engine mode, which can only be used for brief bursts for overtaking. Because the information is shared within the team, Hamilton’s engineer was able to see when Rosberg was using it so Hamilton could “mirror” him.

Even so, Rosberg got his nose ahead more than once, and Hamilton had to use all his racing nous to protect his lead.

Hamilton edges clear

52 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton So use ‘overtake’ where you need it.
53 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg Nico, strat-3 to charge the battery. You can still use overtake.
54 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton OK Lewis, you can use ‘overtake’ on the exit of corners now. Use ‘overtake’ where you need it.

Over the final laps Hamilton had little more than the one second DRS gap in hand over Rosberg, but it was enough for him to take a remarkable win.


57 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton OK Lewis. You’ve got the energy. Use ‘overtake’ everywhere now. Use ‘overtake’.
Victory lap Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton Nice work there Lewis! You had us all going there for a minute, mate.
VL Lewis Hamilton Peter Bonnington Fantastic job this weekend, guys! We didn’t really have the pace on this side of the garage but we still held on to it. Let’s work on that. Thanks.
VL Paddy Lowe Lewis Hamilton Fantastic job, Lewis. Fantastic. And really great racing, well done.
VL Paddy Lowe Nico Rosberg Fantastic job Nico, and best of all great racing. Very well done.
VL Nico Rosberg Tony Ross And then someone should tell me that the sport is boring…

Hamilton and Rosberg deserved equal praise for their hard, clean fight. And Mercedes are also due credit for trusting their drivers to take each other one without colliding.

They may enjoy a considerable performance advantage at the moment, but it would be worthless if their two drivers crashed into each other.

Rosberg vs Hamilton race chart

The gaps between Rosberg and Hamilton on each lap (seconds):

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57
Nico Rosberg 1.02 1.03 0.969 1.297 1.495 1.455 1.504 1.382 1.529 1.341 1.473 1.432 1.409 1.509 1.178 0.897 0.55 0.516 0 0 0 6.094 5.623 6.058 6.476 6.801 7.041 7.268 7.461 7.582 7.818 8.512 8.432 8.869 9.242 9.511 9.682 9.787 9.787 9.526 13.585 0.925 1.288 1.423 1.245 0.413 0.48 0.982 0.894 0.612 0.565 0.578 0.827 1.011 0.986 1.014 1.085
Lewis Hamilton 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2.064 19.933 15.259 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Radio transcription by @WillWood. Full race transcript to follow.

2014 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Image © Daimler/Hoch Zwei

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75 comments on How Mercedes made it a fair fight between Hamilton and Rosberg

  1. kpcart said on 8th April 2014, 15:54

    I bet if brawn was still there, he would have told rosberg not to challenge after safety car. Im glad brawn is gone.

  2. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 8th April 2014, 16:02

    Nice but of insight into a great battle.

    Nico Rosberg’s demeanor after the race on the podium and in all his post-race interviews was pretty telling. He seemed to be pretty irritated, initially I thought that would have been at the team or Hamilton, but the more I think about it, it has to be at himself. He had all the tools to win (the quicker tyre, DRS, no team orders) and yet he couldn’t get the job done. People said that Malaysia was a big psychological boost for Hamilton, I have to think that Bahrain was even more so.

    • avl0 said on 8th April 2014, 16:48

      I think so too. I think even though nico had the edge on hamilton here that wont worry hamilton too much because it was a much smaller edge than last year and there are tracks coming that hamilton goes much better at.

      Whereas this was probably one of nicos best opportunities to take the win but he couldnt manage it despite all the advantages. If it was me i’d be extremely frustrated with myself and slightly worried. He wont be broken yet though if we see the same pattern over the next few races or a reliability problem on nicos side though then he could snap. At which point we’ll either see fireworks or a slump and resignation to being no.2

    • Deej92 (@deej92) said on 8th April 2014, 21:33

      I said very similar after the race. This was just as much an eye-opener for Rosberg as the 17 second gap Hamilton won by in Malaysia.

  3. DaveW (@dmw) said on 8th April 2014, 16:26

    Nicely done analysis. Who else is digging in to these races and giving you this kind of color? I wish other sports had writing like this to really use the information no the table to give you the real insight, especially in “complicated” sports like U.S. football, where there is a lot going on in terms of communication between players and coaches and strategic choices.

  4. Damonw said on 8th April 2014, 16:34

    With all the data teams share between drivers these days it’s no wonder they are so close when they are both so talented.

    It’s not as though one driver can hold something back during the weekend because you only find out yours and the cars limits when you give it 100%

    This year they’ve got that much of an advantage I’d forget about qualifying and fully concentrate on my starts and race pace, it’s surely going down to the wire this year if both cars are reliable.

  5. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 8th April 2014, 17:06

    Says a lot of Hamilton’s race, really. What a beast. Kudos to Mercedes anyway, managed it very well and there were not a single hint of grey areas like: “come on Seb, this is silly”

  6. TribalTalker (@tribaltalker) said on 8th April 2014, 18:17

    Really nice to see the radio transcript being used for real in-depth analysis. It’s very revealing and adds so much depth. I expect to get more out of the next few races because of the insight gained from this article.

    @keithcollantine: Erratum – In the Congratulations section we have
    “VL / Paddy Lowe / Lewis Hamilton / Fantastic job Nico, and best of all great racing. Very well done” – looks like it should be “Paddy Lowe / Nico Rosberg”.

  7. Wilhelm (@wilhelm) said on 8th April 2014, 20:21

    What a wonderful read. I very rarely comment on this forum but I had to say it – Images from the race came back to my mind all along the article, it was like living the battle a second time with much more hindsight. Thank you for that, this was maybe the most enjoyable piece of GP reporting / analysis I got to read until now.

  8. Yuriy said on 8th April 2014, 22:55

    Thanks for great article and details!

  9. Eric Morman (@lethalnz) said on 9th April 2014, 4:22

    full agree fantastic info that we would rarely see, Cheers Kieth.

    this shows how much more a driver of today has to know about the car and its potential complete with still driving it to the limit when needed,
    Merc’s your the champion for letting your drivers race, thank you for that,
    Nico just needs to stay in front from the start, then it will be interesting, Ham has set the bar for when passing, so be prepared Ham to have little room when your not infront,
    i just hope Ham can handle that situation when it comes around like Nico did,
    for me that will be the icing on the cake of true friendship,
    but i have this funny feeling which i will keep to myself.

    once again thanks Keith for this insight into such a highly competitive sport.

  10. AldoH said on 9th April 2014, 14:33

    Awesome attitude and awesome reading.
    But it is shocking to realise how much attention they still put on the tyres and its degradation. I guess the torque with the new engines (please don’t ask me to call them power units) eats the rear tyres quickly, but those constant messages concerning the front ones are unexpected.
    Very interesting. Thanks, Keith.

  11. Jason (@jason12) said on 9th April 2014, 18:38

    Very well written article Keith.

    Almost narrated like a soap opera.

  12. Bobby (@f1bobby) said on 10th April 2014, 20:10

    Beautiful. I love reading that they were both pushing the engine to the maximum for the final sprint.

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