‘Trust each other’: communication is key, say Mercedes after Hamilton’s anger

  • Toto Wolff plays down pit-stop row at end of F1 Turkish GP
  • Hamilton: ‘In the heat of the moment, passion can come out’

Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team will work to re-establish trust and communication on the track after the world champion was left angry and frustrated with their decision-making at the Turkish Grand Prix.

After fiercely criticising his team during the race, Hamilton acknowledged on Monday that the call which led to him dropping from third to fifth was partly of his own making while pointedly remarking he was never going to be “polite and calm” when racing.

Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas won the race at Istanbul Park with a commanding performance from pole to flag, while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished second. Hamilton’s fifth place wiped out his two-point lead in the championship with an eight-point swing in Verstappen’s favour.

The world champion had started in 11th after a 10-place grid penalty for taking a new engine in Turkey and he made a superb run through the field to fifth by lap 15. On a wet track Mercedes opted for him to stay out on the intermediate tyres as the leaders pitted. It advanced Hamilton to third, behind Verstappen, a place that had he held would have left him just one point behind the Dutchman.

Hamilton believed he could make it to the finish on his worn rubber but on lap 50 Mercedes, fearing his grip would drop off and he would lose places, or that his tyres would give out, insisted he pitted. When he emerged in fifth and was unable to make any further progress he was damning, saying: “Fuck, man, why did you give up that place? We shouldn’t have come in.” When his race engineer Peter Bonnington apologised after the race Hamilton declined to answer his friend.

On Monday morning, however, Hamilton insisted on Instagram: “It isn’t true to say I’m furious with the team … I wanted to risk it and try and go to the end, but it was my call to stay out and it didn’t work. In the end we did pit and it was the safest thing to do.

“Don’t ever expect me to be all polite and calm on the radio when I’m racing. We are all very passionate, and in the heat of the moment that passion can come out, as it does for all the drivers … But any angst is quickly forgotten and we talked it through, and are already looking ahead to the next race.”

The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, had earlier said he had no issues with Hamilton’s anger during the race. “We have no problem at all with tough conversations on the radio,” he said.

“Obviously we wouldn’t speak like this to Lewis because he is driving a car at 320km an hour. But it’s all OK. We have been in this together for eight years and are thick-skinned enough to know that the driver in the car is frustrated about the situation but he will understand afterwards.”

At the previous round in Russia the team overruled Hamilton’s instinct to stay out as the rain increased and their decision proved spot on as he went on to win. Wolff believed they had to better allow Hamilton to understand and follow their decision-making. “We had what Lewis called a genius stroke in terms of strategy last time and we need to really work on the communication to trust each other, to be able to describe what we are aiming for,” he said.

Wolff noted that Hamilton’s lap times had been dropping and that they were concerned over the risk of losing all the points with a tyre failure but that they had to work with Hamilton to improve the exchange of information.

“The communication needs to flow both directions,” he said. “The pilot has the vital sense on track that will tell you about the grip levels but he does not see himself relative to other drivers and other performances. That information we need to work on.”

The next round is the US GP in Austin in two weeks, a track where Mercedes will expect to be strong once more. Hamilton was optimistic of racing at a circuit where he has won five times and insisted that losing his title lead would not make any difference to his performance as the intensity of the six-race title run-in ramps up.

“I don’t feel any pressure, I am very chilled. I don’t like losing points but that’s the way that it is. I did everything I could this weekend. The car has been feeling good. If it continues to behave as it has, that will be good for us.

Contributor

Giles Richards in Istanbul

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