Hamilton, Wolff, fear engine mode ban compromised overtaking ability
Reflecting on the Italian GP, Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff of Mercedes agreed that the engine mode ban compromised overtaking chances.
Heading into the F1 Italian GP weekend, the biggest storyline was the ban on variable engine modes in parc ferme conditions. And though as we emerged from the other side of the race, Pierre Gasly's shock win dominated headlines, this should not detract from the drastic effect the aforementioned rule change had on racing in this past weekend's race.
No longer were drivers able to blast past competition by turning a rotating dial on their steering wheels; instead, this aspect was eliminated, leaving drivers with little more at their disposal than raw pace and a slipstream - helped, of course, by DRS.
We saw many leading cars stagnate if ever they were dunked into the depths of the midfield, as was the case with many drivers during the race, Mercedes' Hamilton among them. The Brit had a commanding lead, but after a pit stop blunder saw him pull into a closed pit lane, he was sent to the back of the grid with a 10-second stop-go penalty. In the race's closing stages, Hamilton - ever the exception to a rule - caught up to the pack, and began scything through it to eventually finish P7 - no mean feat given the revolutionized type of racing.
"The recovery drive was really good," said Mercedes boss Wolff. "It is difficult to overtake in Monza, like we said, because with this TD on engine modes, you can’t just turn it up for the overtakes and you can’t turn it up either to defend. Even more the drive is very good to recover to P7.
"But obviously it’s a lost race for him and the team, and this sentiment prevails." Hamilton was justifiably happy with his driving Sunday, also adding that the implementation of the engine mode ban cost him in the day's running, as he claimed it also forced him to expend his tyres more quickly.
"It’s worse for racing, so it wasn’t good for having to, that’s why I wasn’t overtaking a huge amount, or at a fast pace," said Hamilton. "When I came out, I saw that I had a massive gap, and it wasn’t really closing anywhere near as fast as I would like. And also I was running out of laps, I was already on lap twenty-odd by the time I came out.
"I was sure I was going to catch them at some stage, but yeah, then I caught up and I couldn’t get by, so it didn’t feel great, that’s for sure. I had to use up a lot of my tyres to even catch the back of the train. But I did the best I could," summed up Hamilton. "Naturally I’m happy with how I’ve driven," he said.
"It’s not easy being on the front row, for anybody at the start, it’s a very pressured moment, and it’s easy as you could see with Valtteri to get the starts wrong. I was really happy with the start, really happy with how I controlled the race and the gap and the tyres in that first stint. And everything that followed after that was difficult.
"But I’ve been doing this a long time, and I felt still incredibly hungry when I came out from that pit stop, it’s definitely frustrating of course, but I was just chasing and chasing and chasing, which is chasing a 30-second gap is not particularly the fun part, the fun part is when you get to get close and start racing. I wish that started earlier.
"Once I finally caught and I couldn’t get by, of course there were moments I didn’t think I was going to get anywhere. But I just kept pushing, tried to be patient. I didn’t make any mistakes, and seventh was the best that I could do. I think considering that I was 30 seconds behind the last car, considering the challenges that I was faced, I am genuinely grateful for the challenge.
"These are the days that you grow the most I think, because none of us love losing. So we sit and do the debrief, and nobody’s happy, but we all have to hold one another accountable. I definitely hold myself accountable for not seeing those signs, but I think it’s part of a whole sequence of things that we did as a team which weren’t perfect.
"But to come away with still that many points and the fastest lap, which was helpful, and then to know, I don’t really know what happened with Max, and then I’m not really sure why Valtteri was fifth. Talk about damage limitation. I’m definitely grateful for it," summed up Hamilton.
[This story was written by me for FormulaRapida and edited by Darshan Chokhani]