Mercedes AMG Motorsport have revealed the extent of the damage Lewis Hamilton sustained during the Austrian Grand Prix, which resulted in the team changing the Brit’s front wing during the race.
During the Grand Prix and when Hamilton was leading the race before his stop, the reigning champion ran wide numerous times and lost approximately two seconds a lap.
It was found that Hamilton ran over a kerb in the early stages of the race, which resulted in him losing significant amount of downforce despite not looking like any damage was done.
However after the Grand Prix, Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director, Andrew Shovlin explained on Mercedes debrief show ‘Pure PitWall’, how Hamilton lost downforce during the Grand Prix, which ultimately lost him time on track and during the pit stop, when the team replaced the nose on his Mercedes.
“He was running on the kerb at Turn 10 and the flap adjuster broke,” said Shovlin.
“That’s the thing we use to change the angle of the flaps on the left and right side of the wing, that changes how much downforce it produces and this is one of the main tools the drivers and the engineers use to balance the car, they are trying to put more load on the front.
“When it broke on that kerb, it drops down. It only drops by a few degrees but it means that he’s got understeer then in all those fast corners.”
During Hamilton’s one and only stop in the Grand Prix, the Mercedes team changed the wing on his car. The extra time to change the wing left them behind both Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen, who would eventually go on to win the race.
Shovlin further explained why the team opted to change the nose of Hamilton’s car rather than sticking with it and balancing the angle out, adding that a change would be quicker for the race as a whole.
“Now, there were two things we were talking about, One; do we come in and go to the maximum angle we can achieve on the other side to improve that balance, or do we change the nose.
“We were looking at the readings we were getting on that wing, trying to understand if there was the range to do it, just by adding more wing on the other side of the car and it was quite clear that wouldn’t be enough.
“So that was then we had to take the pit stop, which is about an additional eight seconds, but overall that would have been quicker for the race as a whole, because he would of otherwise been slower by at least half a second a lap.
Traditionally, changing front wings are rare in Formula 1 and only happen when excessive damage is sustained. Pit stops in the modern era of the sport last at average two seconds as only the tyres and front wing adjustments get changed during a stop.
But the teams do practice for scenarios such as this and often get the car back on track within less than ten seconds with a new wing. But the wider wings, and with tyre changes still ongoing, it takes around six mechanics at the front of the car to help change a whole front nose cone. Mercedes recorded Hamilton’s stop to be around nine seconds.
“Pitstop practice we do really every day of the race weekend, and the front wings, we’ll normally do a couple of practice front wing changes in each pit stop practice,” Shovlin explained.
“It’s not something that we have to often do during the race, we probably only do one or two a year in anger but they are difficult things to get on and off, they are quite heavy, they are very big now and you have to coordinate that around the wheel changes that are going on.
“But we make sure the guys are all well-versed in doing it so that we need to do one like we did on Sunday, we know how long it takes and we know that we can do it reliably.”