It was a race that the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team could never have predicted at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Both Mercedes drivers taking a trip through the gravel and into the wall, but both with significantly different outcomes. Both incidents happened to involve Williams Racing’s George Russell, within a handful of laps between each other.
Lewis Hamilton who was on his pursuit of Max Verstappen, went onto the damp part of a drying circuit at turn seven to lap Russell. It was a big mistake by Hamilton who slid off into the gravel and further damaged his wounded Mercedes.
Hamilton had taken a bounce across the kerbs of turn two on the first lap of the race, after going side by side with Verstappen.
Then came the second Mercedes collision of the day, and this time it was a big one. Valtteri Bottas and George Russell fighting over ninth place had a huge impact with the barrier at turn two at almost 190mph after coming too close to one enough out of turn one.
It was a crash that Wolff believes Russell was to blame and has a lot to learn after the race.
The crash was a blessing and a curse for Mercedes, a red flag because of the incident allowed the mechanics time to fix Hamilton’s Mercedes.
In the restarted race Hamilton drove out of his skin to not only climb back to second place but to also take the fastest lap of the race and keep hold of the championship lead.
Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff could not have believed the highs and lows of the grand prix.
“Leading the Championship with the fastest lap is one thing but what actually gives it a silver lining or positive connotation today is that we seem to have a really quick race car.“
“Unfortunately, the crash between George and Valtteri was unnecessary. Valtteri had a difficult first 30 laps and shouldn’t have been there but George should have never launched into this manoeuvre considering that the track was drying up. It meant taking risks and the other car is a Mercedes in front of him and in any drivers’ development as a young driver you must never lose this global perspective. Lots to learn for him I guess.”
“Apart from that we had all highs and lows from the incident in the first corner which cost us two tenths in aero performance on Lewis’ car. Then we had Lewis hitting the barrier on lap 31. The recovery drive from Lewis after the race restarted was really brilliant, ten out of ten.”
“Overall, today was very difficult to judge because of the circumstances but we had a very good car today in the wet and in the drying up. We are slowly starting to understand it but according to the data we are still not having a car and power unit that can match the Red Bull Honda.”
“It was difficult imagine how things could get any worse” – Shovlin
Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin, could not believe the events that were occuring. Not only with both cars hitting the wall but also with the challenging conditions of the race.
The race began in the wet and became drier throughout the grand prix, bringing with it the headache for the team of deciding when to change from the intermediates to the slick tyres. A decision which ultimately Mercedes got wrong after Red Bull Racing pulled the undercut on the team.
Nevertheless the team keep hold of the drivers and constructors championship lead after a difficult weekend, the team know there are lots of areas they need to improve on to take the fight to Red Bull.
“On lap 31 it was difficult imagine how things could get any worse. We had Lewis stuck in the gravel with a broken wing and Valtteri out with a massive amount of damage. So, leaving here still in the lead of both championships is quite a relief and I suppose we should be grateful for that.”
“For Lewis it was very much a race of two halves. The early part was defined by the damage to the front wing after the contact with Max – that improved slightly when the footplate came away completely but we still had a chunk of load and balance missing. As such, we were a bit surprised when Lewis was able to close in on Max towards the end of the intermediate stint.”
“The transition to dry was okay, warm-up was a challenge and I think we look worse than our competitors in this regard but as we didn’t have time to change the wing it was always going to be a struggle to put Max under pressure. That became a bit of a moot point when Lewis slid off passing some traffic and lost a load of time and positions.”
“The suspended race allowed us the chance to repair the car and in the final stint we saw what it was capable of. It was a great recovery by Lewis and an impressive fastest lap.”
“Valtteri’s day was even more difficult. He was finding the warm-up more of a challenge than Lewis, struggling mainly with rear grip. That was the case on both inter and slick tyres but on the transition to dry it was particularly bad.”
“He got swamped by a few cars and ultimately, that was what started the events that triggered the crash with George and the end of this race. Overall, a frustrating weekend and one where we have plenty of areas that we need to look to for improvement.”