Why Mercedes didn’t retire Hamilton sooner

2014 Belgian Grand Prix lap times and fastest laps

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2014The records will show Mercedes took pole position at Spa-Francorchamps this year with over two seconds in hand over their closest rivals, and in the race Nico Rosberg’s fastest lap was almost two seconds quicker than anyone else – yet they still lost the race.

That’s remarkable enough in its own right, and the top staff at Mercedes are rightly furious that an unnecessary collision between their drivers cost what should have been another one-two finish.

The scale of Mercedes’ advantage gives some insight into another of the interesting storylines of the race – Lewis Hamilton’s eagerness to retire his wounded W05 while the team wanted him to stay out.

Hamilton incurred considerable damage to the floor of his car while driving back to the pits with a puncture, and after he rejoined the track the car was clearly not handling to his liking. But despite those problems Hamilton’s car was still quick – indeed, he took 2.7 seconds out of his race-leading team mate between laps three and eight.

Nonetheless in a series of radio messages to his team Hamilton made it clear he wanted to retire the car. “I’ve got nothing, guys,” he said shortly before his second pit stop, “the rear end is so bad”.

Hamilton, of course, is used to having a much quicker car underneath him than almost every other driver in the field. His badly wounded car was, in the early stages of the race, still better than what many of his rivals get to drive on a good day.

Afterwards Hamilton estimated the damage had cost him “at least 50, 40 points [of downforce]“. He told reporters: “I could do nothing, I was driving the arse off the car and the thing was all over the place and I couldn’t catch Romain Grosjean.”

Hamilton’s comments reflect the condition his car was in by the time he retired. But to begin with he was regularly over a second per lap faster than Grosjean, as the date below shows. He overtook the Lotus on lap 23.

However Hamilton’s car was getting worse. “The condition of the car deteriorated further as the race continued,” explained Mercedes’ executive direcotr for technical, Paddy Lowe.

It became increasingly clear to Mercedes that his only realistic chance of scoring points was if the Safety Car came out. This was not an unreasonable gamble to take – the Safety Car had appeared in four of the last five races at Spa-Francorchamps.

But even if the Safety Car had appeared, Hamilton wasn’t convinced it would help him. “It doesn’t even matter if the Safety Car came out,” he said afterwards, “I wouldn’t be able to pass the car in front. [Adrian] Sutil was pulling away from me.”

Hamilton was faster than Sutil until around the middle part of the race. But his car was getting slower, and soon the Sauber ahead of him was getting smaller instead of larger – which was due in part to Sutil being on the soft tyres. However after Hamilton’s final pit stop it became clear the tipping point had been reached, and Mercedes finally retired his car.

Up until that point, Hamilton had usually been quick enough that the potential appearance of the Safety Car could have helped him take at least one point. As his race engineer Peter Bonnington pointed out during the race, had they retired his car early and then seen the Safety Car come out, “we’d be kicking ourselves”.

Belgian Grand Prix lap times

All the lap times by the drivers (in seconds, very slow laps excluded):

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2014drivercolours.csv

td>129.072

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
Nico Rosberg 118.205 116.991 116.292 116.033 116.097 116.749 116.431 120.796 134.63 115.819 115.495 114.392 114.46 115.16 115.029 115.702 116.191 115.39 121.21 126.661 111.898 113.015 116.305 114.163 113.088 113.534 113.423 113.131 113.104 113.142 113.414 113.957 113.392 117.808 128.023 110.511 111.338 111.104 110.905 110.856 111.168 111.345 111.595 111.987
Lewis Hamilton 117.652 160.954 132.4 115.346 115.993 116.358 115.993 116.173 116.046 115.919 116.229 116.216 116.429 116.501 116.832 116.724 121.321 129.857 113.926 114.395 114.224 115.38 114.449 114.691 115.092 115.472 115.217 115.091 115.488 115.865 122.738 131.075 113.707 114.881 115.908 116.211 115.059 128.268
Sebastian Vettel 119.311 116.613 116.374 116.129 117.202 116.791 116.624 116.578 116.44 120.504 128.444 115.132 115.339 115.574 115.008 115.57 115.558 115.51 115.603 115.369 115.253 119.713 127.368 114.687 115.795 115.046 114.97 115.094 115.348 115.052 115.961 115.366 115.394 118.982 127.565 112.953 113.086 113.198 112.995 113.437 114.213 116.768 116.211 114.624
Fernando Alonso 120.01 116.398 116.386 116.909 116.439 116.906 116.603 117.341 116.398 116.273 116.159 120.692 134.321 115.596 114.723 114.834 115.105 115.473 115.65 115.291 117.044 117.075 115.57 115.306 120.647 128.992 113.908 114.453 113.879 114.364 113.926 114.233 113.952 114.241 114.005 114.454 115.678 114.977 115.142 115.167 115.436 117.58 117.195 122.987
Daniel Ricciardo 120.472 116.499 116.302 115.694 115.834 116.287 116.455 116.464 115.236 115.319 119.913 127.446 114.927 114.409 114.226 114.352 114.432 114.423 114.66 114.626 114.331 114.402 114.242 115.15 115.039 114.972 119.544 127.111 113.255 113.178 113.74 113.326 113.422 113.397 113.476 113.405 113.231 113.392 113.231 113.219 113.557 113.52 113.466 112.974
Valtteri Bottas 121.149 116.631 116.094 116.425 116.423 116.729 116.692 116.174 116.35 116.212 115.73 120.477 128.096 114.828 115.203 115.212 115.292 115.505 115.659 115.561 115.413 115.02 114.745 114.907 115.406 114.962 115.331 119.617 127.975 114.556 114.102 114.302 114.319 114.233 114.766 114.187 114.278 114.014 114.112 112.716 113.47 113.534 113.575 114.606
Kevin Magnussen 122.531 117.281 116.662 116.465 116.492 116.433 116.687 116.994 116.987 116.904 120.837 128.36 116.018 115.141 115.447 115.729 115.454 115.453 115.648 115.372 117.488 116.589 119.525 126.566 114.549 115.348 115.442 114.203 114.298 114.495 114.73 114.474 114.413 114.866 114.431 114.769 115.931 114.665 114.798 114.936 116.228 117.438 117.083 116.658
Kimi Raikkonen 121.561 116.81 116.231 116.36 116.292 117.023 116.547 120.906 128.859 114.727 114.333 114.746 114.856 114.79 115.003 114.903 115.184 115.761 115.446 115.366 119.85 128.23 115.844 116.158 114.924 115.458 114.823 114.822 114.692 114.675 114.981 114.585 114.398 114.559 114.534 114.813 114.684 114.318 114.09 115.416 114.852 114.823 115.335 116.803
Felipe Massa 123.34 117.771 118.153 117.876 118.048 117.393 118.008 117.713 123.712 132.15 116.311 116.493 116.975 116.855 117.691 117.1 117.409 117.237 116.951 117.364 121.765 128.567 113.161 113.451 114.013 114.211 114.4 115.459 114.8 114.449 114.859 114.786 114.924 115.415 120.016 127.204 112.512 112.552 112.592 113.496 113.454 113.777 113.575 114.543
Jenson Button 123.675 118.275 116.999 116.803 116.559 116.602 116.562 116.846 117.105 116.687 117.247 116.583 121.025 128.784 115.428 115.6 115.235 114.835 114.977 114.799 115.292 116.433 116.234 117.573 116.792 116.226 115.792 115.473 120.182 126.848 113.589 114.291 113.907 113.899 114.042 113.943 113.705 113.483 113.591 113.719 114.918 117.962 116.705 115.911
Daniil Kvyat 124.486 118.474 117.371 117.702 117.81 117.386 117.891 117.643 116.536 121.015 129.668 114.721 114.989 115.159 116.512 115.876 116.109 116.245 116.249 116.353 115.827 116.984 115.541 120.449 131.064 114.159 114.755 114.534 115.147 114.978 114.734 114.698 114.731 114.494 114.744 115.121 115.271 115.001 115.028 114.737 115.423 115.174 115.363 115.751
Jean-Eric Vergne 126.461 119.385 117.574 117.408 117.612 118.055 117.645 116.83 117.671 117.125 118.248 117.161 117.726 118.047 121.831 130.025 116.314 116.589 116.353 117.602 117.122 115.798 116.089 115.988 116.259 116.904 115.614 115.331 119.859 127.864 113.276 113.755 113.669 113.897 113.413 113.606 113.444 113.703 113.621 113.832 114.173 114.885 115.145 115.567
Sergio Perez 123.993 118.375 117.289 117.825 116.575 116.967 116.777 117.248 121.109 129.421 114.899 115.489 116.341 115.7 116.947 117.183 116.709 115.91 116.241 116.071 116.328 121.109 128.12 114.778 114.659 114.645 114.73 114.532 114.701 115.136 114.907 116.281 115.533 115.023 115.667 115.936 115.067 115.031 115.004 115.242 115.211 115.079 115.357 115.704
Adrian Sutil 125.467 118.913 117.954 117.679 118.119 117.712 117.683 118.3 117.847 118.777 122.029 130.066 115.307 115.984 116.97 117.043 117.496 117.358 117.049 117.179 122.007 129.317 114.359 114.535 114.733 114.403 114.997 115.084 115.036 115.06 115.106 115.555 115.364 120.006 127.803 112.413 112.945 112.804 113.433 113.452 113.515 113.688 114.274 114.182
Romain Grosjean 134.583 138.206 117.512 117.671 117.784 118.633 117.669 117.478 117.557 117.243 117.475 117.944 122.46 129.625 115.746 117.434 116.209 115.695 115.667 116.004 115.649 116.173 117.183 116.222 116.427 115.972 120.846 132.919 116.099 115.981 116.207 116.741 122.203
Jules Bianchi 165.961 135.897 117.798 117.914 117.786 117.989 117.834 118.207 118.167 118.21 117.956 117.966 118.17 118.028 118.237 118.556 118.627 118.799 118.619 118.54 118.788 119.098 124.245 131.527 117.364 117.101 116.827 120.546 117.371 117.218 119.962 116.347 116.705 118.428 119.272 117.85 116.708 117.388 145.306
Pastor Maldonado
Nico Hulkenberg 125.739 117.815 117.483 117.554 117.873 117.362 117.763 117.903 118.546 121.031 130 115.519 115.619 115.898 115.965 115.871 115.823 115.892 115.731 115.56 115.716 115.912 116.041 115.951 116.079 116.174 117.55 116.518 116.77 120.335 129.006 114.416 114.198 114.414 114.765 113.96 114.11 114.25 114.307 113.612 113.702 113.771 114.152 115.597
Max Chilton 131.336 120.516 119.33 118.845 119.026 119.475 119.235 118.863 119.551 119.898 124.419 132.554 117.877 118.501 118.573 118.574 118.669 118.846 118.505 118.28 118.245 118.625 118.623 118.721 118.693 118.684 117.848 118.526 123.046 132.658 115.247 116.001 115.893 117.02 117.827 116.301 116.149 115.526 116.31 120.433 119.075 117.574 120.409
Esteban Gutierrez 127.44 119.008 117.761 117.953 117.837 117.508 117.813 117.392 118.816 118.676 117.877 118.581 118.439 123.132 130.192 115.73 115.829 115.572 115.618 115.776 116.589 116.146 116.516 116.227 117.857 116.63 115.79 116.124 117.661 121.098 128.176 114 114.476 114.465 114.23 115.372 114.341 115.656 114.537 114.991 115.18 114.646 114.871 114.852
Andre Lotterer 129.985
Marcus Ericsson 130.738 120.564 118.965 118.974 119.183 119.342 119.109 118.63 119.131 120.077 124.312 132.991 118.082 118.217 117.917 119.18 118.708 118.413 118.87 117.974 118.26 118.347 118.25 123.749 131.969 115.9 116.685 116.665 116.879 117.941 118.331 117.008 116.974 116.851 117.785 118.548 116.825 116.905 117.084 118.658 120.989 120.028 118.965

Belgian Grand Prix fastest laps

Each driver’s fastest lap:

Rank Driver Car Fastest lap Gap On lap
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’50.511 36
2 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1’52.413 1.902 36
3 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1’52.512 2.001 37
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1’52.716 2.205 40
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’52.953 2.442 36
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1’52.974 2.463 44
7 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 1’53.276 2.765 31
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’53.483 2.972 38
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’53.612 3.101 40
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’53.707 3.196 33
11 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’53.879 3.368 29
12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1’54.000 3.489 32
13 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’54.090 3.579 39
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1’54.159 3.648 26
15 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1’54.203 3.692 28
16 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1’54.532 4.021 28
17 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1’55.247 4.736 31
18 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1’55.649 5.138 21
19 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1’55.900 5.389 26
20 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1’56.347 5.836 32
21 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 2’09.072 18.561 1
22 Andre Lotterer Caterham-Renault 2’09.985 19.474 1

2014 Belgian Grand Prix

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Image © Mercedes/Hoch Zwei

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43 comments on Why Mercedes didn’t retire Hamilton sooner

  1. colinf (@colinf) said on 24th August 2014, 20:48

    I think begging to retire the car is not the attitude of a champion. One need only look to Alonso to see what a never give up mentality can get a driver…

    • Ju88sy (@ju88sy) said on 24th August 2014, 21:25

      Five engines total this season not eight, thanks to Hungary Lewis is already one down vs Nico, with no chance of points and Monza next up it was logic not attitude causing Lewis to request retirement.

    • LosD (@losd) said on 24th August 2014, 22:20

      Hammy has shown that attitude several times this year. He was just being realistic.

    • GB (@bgp001ruled) said on 25th August 2014, 3:07

      stop adoring alonso please! do that in your room…

      • David Jessop (@random-linkz-2) said on 25th August 2014, 9:08

        he’s not adoring Alonso. I am a grosjean, vettle and massa fan. I really don’t like Alonso but he unlike most drivers including Hamilton. Alonso will never give up a cause until the finishing line. he would drive a car with no front wing to the finish if it happened. the only other people I know do this would be vettel (brazil 2012) and grosjean possibly with his career and india 2013

        • William Stuart (@williamstuart) said on 25th August 2014, 9:59

          Those are completely different circumstances, this year a much greater focus on reliability is given, meaning that it is almost certain that no one will finish at Abu Dhabi without incurring penalties. Also, with the best scenario being Lewis scores a point or two and Nico scores 18, this is not really going to matter, and it is far more advantageous to ensure the cars reliability for a future race where he can score big points. I would have been very angry at Lewis if he had come over the radio and said the opposite.

          • Alonso fights as hard as possible but he’d think about the championship 100% too. Think about his championship winning years, he’d do only what was necessary to pick up the title.

            Lewis was very mature to think about retiring. Of course he wants to drive but he wants to win the championship more.

    • William Stuart (@williamstuart) said on 25th August 2014, 9:53

      It is exactly the kind of thing a world champion would say, if the car is deteriorating and the chance of him getting a decent number of point is infinite coma then adding unnecessary miles to the clock is going to be a huge disadvantage in future races where he is actually running at the front, if that engine fails at a future race then we all know it was (potentially) avoidable. Scoring one or two points is nothing in this title race (famous last words!) so the safety of the car should be reserved so that he gets greater reliability when he can take a huge amount of points.

    • Did he ask to retire immediately? No…He went out, gave it a go and made a decision to re-group. No need to work the engine when he’s already disadvantaged on that front with respect to his team-mate.
      Imagine this…he continues to the end, finishes in 15th and then needs a new engine for the next race. Then you’d say he was silly to continue with no hope of getting points.

  2. Yobo01 (@yobo01) said on 24th August 2014, 20:51

    It’s the first time that 2014 cars were faster than 2013, I think. Last year’s fastest lap was a 1:50.756, two tenths slower than Rosberg today.
    Of course Rosberg had brand new soft tyres, low fuel, but it’s still a remarkable achievement, in my opinion. It’s a shame that the W05 is the only car capable of doing it.

  3. Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 24th August 2014, 20:54

    Did Lewis incur the damage while driving back to the pits, or cause it? If he’d taken 20s longer but brought back a less damaged car…we’ll never know.

  4. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 24th August 2014, 21:28

    It¡s funny to see the laptime comparision between Daniel and Seb. It’s like watching Mark v Seb all over again but in reverse order: Daniel gets the car round faster and using less tyres…

  5. A voluntary (I’m not going to win, so I want to go get a beer ;-)) retirement would have cost them a penalty. Better to look for a reason to retire that avoid the penalty.

  6. Elaine said on 24th August 2014, 23:22

    Lewis would never willingly give up on a race. He’s a fighter but when alls said and done Rosberg done him wrong

  7. Edvaldo said on 25th August 2014, 0:46

    You have to remember that between laps 2 and 8, Rosberg was driving with just half front wing.

    He was so slow that didn’t even pulled away from the pack and was probably going to lose the lead to Ricciardo if he stayed out longer.

  8. DaveW (@dmw) said on 25th August 2014, 1:46

    The laps 3 to 8 issue was down to Rosberg having a busted wing.

    Also he had the debris on the antenna for a while. Anyone note the rich irony of Rosberg getting thrashed about the head and shoulders by a piece of Hamiltons tire debris? That was only meager helping of justice.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 25th August 2014, 6:35

      :-) I thought the same about that debris, although I am not completely sure it was from Hamilton’s car, looked like something coming from the grandstands to me.

    • hobo (@hobo) said on 25th August 2014, 7:41

      Based on where he picked it up (I thought it was around Eau Rouge / Radillion / Kemmel, I think it was more likely from Bianchi.

      I may be misremembering the replay when he picked it up though.

      • Björn Svensson said on 26th August 2014, 0:06

        Yes, he did pick up the debris from Biancis car, but only because it was dragging under his car for a couple of laps. My guess is that it was threading from Hamilton’s thrashed tyre, almost every driver drove over some pieces of it since it was all over the track. And those threads are incredibly tough, so there’s no wonder that it would survive a good while under a car.

  9. andy2k12 (@andy2k12) said on 25th August 2014, 8:22

    Am I the only one who believes that lewis just decided to drive slower and in this way he ultimately forced the team to retire the car?!

    I mean he asked the team 4-5 times and sounded more and more desperate. On lap 19 he was the fastest car – so at that moment still no sign of damage?!

  10. David Jessop (@random-linkz-2) said on 25th August 2014, 9:14

    something interesting is that with massa and bottas, after massa’s second pit stop massa was faster for the majority of the rest of the race and with info that massa had debris stuck in his car from the Hamilton-Rosberg incident costing him all that time and it only got removed at his second pitstop eguating him to losing 40 seconds. it would be interesting to see where Massa would of ended up as I think he would of ended 4th or 5th possibly

  11. PJA (@pja) said on 27th August 2014, 20:59

    On one hand Mercedes did have to leave Hamilton out in case of a safety car to see if they could salvage a point or two, but considering how badly damaged the car was, how far back he was and most importantly the fact that Hamilton is one engine down on Rosberg after Hungary with penalties if a driver exceed the limit, it is completely understandable why Hamilton suggested retiring when he did.

  12. Casanova (@casanova) said on 29th August 2014, 16:47

    Just noticed that Rosberg set a time on lap 21, less than halfway through the race (and so presumably with about 50kg of fuel on board), that was half a second faster than anyone else managed all race long (even Ricciardo pushing for the win at the end). So even disregarding his late charge on softs, the Merc really was devastatingly quick around Spa!

    Also, I hadn’t noticed that Sutil was the second-fastest person during the race – perhaps there is hope for Sauber yet this season?

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