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Photo by: www.kymillman.com/F1

I’m sorry, and please don’t take this wrong because I pay a lot of money to Autosport each year, but the recent article regarding a possible gearbox change penalty for Lewis Hamilton at the Austrian Grand Prix has me slightly perplexed.

It seems that Lewis will have to change a gearbox due to issues the team discovered during Friday’s practice sessions. The article quotes the FIA response about the change:

“The above driver did finish the last race in Baku and this gearbox change was before the six consecutive events expired.

“As this is not in compliance with article 23.5a of the 2017 Formula 1 sporting regulations, I am referring this matter to the stewards for their consideration.

“The team informed the technical delegate about the gearbox change on Tuesday, 04th July 2017, at 11:29 hours.”

I’m not sure what the implication was supposed to be but the article then takes the bait and runs with the notion saying:

“It is unclear if the Hamilton damage was related to the hit from behind that he suffered when Sebastian Vettel ran into him in their controversial incident under the safety car.”

Banging Lewis’s front right wheel caused the gearbox failure in Austria…got it. The #TeamLH mobocracy on social media have taken this article and started suggesting that it’s possible and this could be the cause and this is why Sebastian Vettel should have had a bigger penalty if not ban.

Look, regardless of what meltdown Vettel had in Baku and Mexico last year, Mercedes have Lewis in a spot of bother that has nothing whatsoever to do with Sebastian’s anger management issues. They fitted an errant head support in Baku that cost Lewis the win and exacerbated Vettel’s penalty as a non-penalty and now they have a dodgy gearbox.

These aren’t Vettel-inspired or caused issues, these are technical issues Mercedes is facing. This is the part of the season—which I predicted in my season preview—where the engine component limit of four is going to start hurting teams in a big way and potentially ruin a championship.

I’ve just now started to see tweets from Hamilton fans that grid penalties for mechanical changes is not a good thing and not the right way forward. Where were these people when I was screaming about this before the season began? The notion of only four engine components is asinine and while the manufacturers and the FIA thought it might help reduce costs, the epic complexity of these albatross engines far overshadows the demand for reliability to reduce costs.

They saddled themselves with these engines and expenses and now only allowing four per year is, as I argued in early March, going to potentially ruin a championship run. If Lewis loses the title in 2017, it will be this regulation that could be the main culprit. For #TeamLH, it will be pinned on Vettel and Baku as the reason for the change. This is all nonsense and could have been foreshadowed back in April and avoided.

I find Autosport’s opining within news articles to be more frequent and disappointing. The FIA announcement wasn’t dog-whistling that the Baku incident may have caused the gearbox failure, it stated that this was the gearbox he used in Baku. To take that comment and posit the notion that the Vettel incident may have caused it is just inflammatory in my opinion.

Now we’ll see Mercedes pick up the torch and release a statement that the collision was the cause and the FI should give special dispensation for Lewis as they didn’t penalize Vettel correctly for the act and damage he caused. Good grief. Let’s hope Mercedes thinks wiser of it. 

UPDATE: This just in from Mercedes: “The world champions have ruled out any possibility that the damage to the unit was done when world championship leader Sebastian Vettel twice hit Hamilton’s car in Baku.” Good to see Mercedes not reducing this to another nightmare social media drama. 

Hat Tip: Autosport

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • AdeyM

    Surely the implication would be that the hit up the rear from Vettel would be the potential cause of the damage, no? I’m not sure why you would assume it has been suggested that it was caused by the “road-rage” side swipe to the front wheel? Whether the rear-ending did cause the gearbox damage I wouldn’t like to say….I’m sure better informed engineers and technicians in the team will know the answer to that one…but the TV images clearly showed it did cause physical damage to the rear of Hamilton’s car in any case, so I think your article is a little disingenuous.

    • I understand the rear impact. Let’s go back to the race for a moment. You all recall the red flag period where the TV cameras were showing the mechanics taping the rear diffuser, right? There was no anxious work around the gearbox. All the news reports I read after the race said that the impact caused slight damage to the rear diffuser and took a portion of Seb’s front wing off.

      If Mercedes have data showing the impact and resultant performance changes in the gearbox, then I completely reverse course on this but to hint as to this as a possible cause is surely premature and irrelevant unless the team has issued a statement I haven’t seen saying that it, in fact, did cause the failure.

      I’ve heard the arguments that these cars have tight tolerances and I understand that but then I would suggest that Perez gets a free gearbox as Ocon hit him much harder than Vettel hit Hamilton. Kimi gets one due to Bottas. I think these cars are more robust than we are giving them credit for. The gearbox isn’t sitting in the diffuser.

      I find the immediate focus on Vettel’s hit as a possible cause for gearbox failure disingenuous unless the team have issued data to the FIA saying it did.

      • AdeyM

        We will find out in due course I’m sure; I can’t imagine that any of us are in the loop for all the FIA/team comms. But it’s clear how you feel from the wording of your article and I still think it’s misleading. I’m happy to keep an open mind on it until we have more info.

        • If there were broken gearbox mounts, damaged casing etc, the team would have reported that to the FIA. A F1 journalist in the paddock told me more damage was done to Seb’s front wing than Lewis’s diffuser. If there was data showing the impact caused a critical issue in the gearbox, that would have been sent to the FIA for the investigation they had on Monday. None of that happened.

          hinting that this could have been the cause is inappropriate in my opinion and doesn’t serve Lewis. He doesn’t need anyone carrying water for him, he’s been above board on the whole issue.

          • AdeyM

            I fully agree that Hamilton has handled himself well on the issue. Glad that Mercedes have put this to bed, and they would be the ones to know the facts after all. But I still think that your article did slightly add fuel a fire that really didn’t need re-igniting until all the facts were in; there’s been so much hate between the Vettel and Hamilton fans on these forums that it’s got really out of hand. But I usually do enjoy reading your work :-)

          • Fair enough, my point was the Autosport article was adding fuel to the fire but hinting that the damage could have been caused by impact. I think that’s what I was finding perplexing. there was no evidence, the FIA didn’t suggest it and the team didn’t allege it so why would the article dog-whistle it? That’s what I found frustrating.

          • jakobusvdl

            Talking about dog whistling stories,
            In the Sky FP1 and FP2 coverage we’ve had;-
            1) Ted Kravitz suggesting to Hamilton that the FIA review was biased because Todt is the ‘former Ferrari team boss’, and
            2) David Croft asking if the Vettel impact could have caused Hamilton’s head protection to come loose.
            FFS!!!! there was a red flag between the impact and the loose headrest, and I’m sure Todt would be justifiably insulted by Kravitz’s implication.
            The ‘professional journalists’ of Sky seemed to have learned their trade on the British red banner newspapers.

          • Salvu Borg

            Have learned their trade on the WORLD’S NUMBER ONE (UNBEATABLE) GUTTER PRESS”.

          • jcn115

            Sky is British, of course they are going to protect god Lewis

          • jakobusvdl

            All very well, but I’m seeing this in New Zealand
            SKY needs to realise that their coverage, and the whole sport of F1, is international.

          • Samouri

            Hate….you surely must have missed the Hamilton and Alonso wars, when they were teamed together. Those times were real war, although the dislike of Hamilton still resonates, sorry to say with many. .

          • Samouri- that’s an interesting take but I can’t recall people telling me they dislike Lewis for the McLaren Alonso days, in fact, I think most of the people who don’t like Alonso have told me those were the years they decided they didn’t like him…that and Singapore crashgate. Do you hear a lot of people say they don’t like Lewis because of the McLaren Alonso conflict?

          • jcn115

            We hate Lewis because how arrogant and egocentric he is. I remember a few years ago when Rachel Brookes ask Lewis about the importance of having a teammate and he responded pretty much that he didn’t needed a teammate that he could do it on his own, then he realized what he said and started to backtrack. Also have you noticed, that when everything goes Lewis’s way, he is very chatty and when things go sour most of the times he only provides one word answers, while other drivers are very engaging with the media, look at Alonso if anyone should be angry is Alonso and he doesn’t behave that way.

          • Hanwi

            I think when you break it down all drivers are prima donnas, the all get sulky and make excuses when things aren’t going their way. Riccarido is the most upbeat but even he gets down from time to time. I think it might be an ego defense mechanism of some sort.

        • This just in from Mercedes: “The world champions have ruled out any possibility that the damage to the unit was done when world championship leader Sebastian Vettel twice hit Hamilton’s car in Baku.”

        • Richard- Agreed. That was the point I was trying to make to the folks on our Facebook page. The impact was not great, the damage was light and localized to the diffuser. Somehow that wasn’t good enough because to them, it could happen and denying it means I am a hater.

          When I get lectured about being curt with the Team Hamilton mobocracy, this is the exact thing I am talking about on Facebook. Even after Mercedes says that the impact had nothing to do with the failure, I still get #TeamLH people accusing me of being holier than thou instead of saying, ok, fair enough…you were right.

          This was also my point about transparency…do we really feel that if the FIA had complete transparency and gave all of the data and information to the fans that these folks would see the logic and come to the correct conclusions when it comes to their favorite driver? And that could be for Lewis fans or Vettel fans etc. IT just seems that Lewis fans go from 0 to hostile and insulting very quickly with me and I actually like the guy a lot. Very odd. I’ve said many times I thought he handled this situation well and has been nothing but complimentary of Seb all year long. Very strange behavior.

      • Richard Piers

        There is a crash structure around the gearbox by regulation. Any damage to that or other parts of the rear of the Mercedes would have been immediately reported. There was some minimal damage to the diffuser made good with pliers !

  • Prakhar Mehrotra

    I think as AdeyM mentioned above, the damage might have been cause by Vettel hitting Hamilton from behind. No one suggested it was from the sideswipe. Oh and all the Hamilton fans crying about grid penalties for mechanical changes, here is an excerpt from the Thursday press conference in Austria and Lewis’s own opinion on the matter

    “Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Mark Webber has recently suggested that drivers shouldn’t be penalised for technical issues with grid penalties etc. How do you feel about that – can one separate a driver from a team and vice versa?

    LH: I understand his point. I’ve only just heard it, so I haven’t had much time to think about it. But I imagine it’s difficult to really implement that. You’re a team. If a driver makes a mistake, the team loses points and if teams, ultimately if it’s a team, collective mistake when something or when reliability hits, it hits you all together… and then also you know, if you have an engine issue and you get a brand new one and you don’t take a penalty you gain an advantage on power quite often. I don’t know. Perhaps there’s a way they could do it.”

    • jakobusvdl

      If fans and drivers want a pure driver series, that could be achieved with spec cars, like F2, GP3, or……..Indy.
      Do fans and drivers really want an end to F1 as a prototype series for constructors?

  • Jim Brackeen

    I’m pretty sure this is just more whining from the Ham camp….

    • To be fair Jim, I don’t think Lewis had anything to do with it. I think the FIA mentioned it was the gearbox used in Baku meaning it had been used already and the article in autosport postulated that it is unclear if the impact from Vettel caused the failure. That’s what I am saying is perplexing.

      What I am really banging on about is the 4-engine rule (as I did at in the season preview), but folks on our Facebook page seemed to feel insulting me is more fun as they reckon I am a Lewis hater. ;)

  • aelfwald

    Completely off topic, but missed apex have completely ripped off your show dude. The original is best though. :-)

    • Huh? I mean nothing untoward, but I’ve not listened to that podcast because I have no time to listen to any podcasts about F1 period. Nothing against them. how are they “ripping us off?”.

  • F1Gold

    It is possible

    • In F1, isn’t anything possible these days? ;)

      • F1Gold

        It should be investigated.

  • maserati123

    Lewis is a sour looser.

  • Gaetano Colosi

    Vettel is real master class. Absolutely on another level to any other driver out there.
    He is trailing Hamilton and knows he can’t get by so is going to give way 7 points in the championship standings by the end, so what to do?
    The safety car gave him the opportunity to ram Lewis while claiming he was brake tested. That also gave him the excuse to drive up alongside and bang wheels as well.
    Having intricate knowledge of the Merc he knew it would force a gearbox change and a grid penalty to his rival. The banging wheels was also intricately done to break a pin on Lewis’ headrest and he knew Lewis could only manage another 4 or 5 flying laps before it would come loose. The red flag period was an unexpected bonus and allowed him to change his front wing. Net result: gain of 2 points against his main rival and also inflicted a 5 place grid penalty.
    There is only 1 way to describe all that … WOW !

    • jakobusvdl

      If he was that cunning he’d be running the FIA

      • Salvu Borg

        Those at SKY better ask the FIA to check out what is going on at number 5 garage because it looks like this morning number 5 mechanics has reconnected the miracle spare oil tank back to the engine. and while at it they should also ask them to check if the FERRARI engine is using spark plugs or not, because their Lulu had to have them changed out yesterday, are you reading MR BARBY?.

  • Salvu Borg

    “PUH-LEASE” No, because its neither microwave nor dishwasher safe, it is in fact the biggest damaging attitude/contribution to the sports.
    It is nothing new, this you talking about (AUTOSPORTS) is just a part of the NUMBER ONE IN THE WORLD GUTTER PRESS contributors, they being in a position to influence their followers, they thrive on it. you should have read/followed what they were saying before the Baku FIA decision and what they were saying after, I well remember what Senna had to go through racing at Silverstone, I remember what Schumacher went through when he broke his leg at Silverstone, I well remember the astonishing declaration by a team owner “we were not racing Kimi, we were racing Alonso”.
    You being “insulted?” I sure know what it’s like.
    From what I can calculate, I am much older than you are, and although still learning I have stopped a long time ago being a “bahnan” paying my money so they can thrive on what they do best, and learned to sieve carefully what the press pushes out.

  • bobmendon

    I have been disappointed and dismayed by some of the fans out there that are so willing to condemn but unwilling to forgive and move on. I am still seeing “multi-21” comments after all these years! It lends the impression that the general fan base is guilty of a lynch mob mentality. Worse yet, to some of us, it looks like the British press is fanning the flames of the nearly pathological hatred of Vettel. It seems journalist have nearly a turrets reaction when writing their stories, to include something negative in the headlines or the article about Vettel. I know I am exaggerating a bit but that’s the general picture one gets while sitting on the sidelines watching the hypocrisy and insanity unfold.

  • Achim

    It would have been a fair question, if the author would have asked a Mercedes official before he wrote the article and then made a statement in the article instead of just starting a rumour.
    And then the wording “it is unclear …”. Until VET apologized for Baku “it was unclear” if the contact was caused by a temporarily broken steering column.

  • Roger Flerity

    Note that Hamilton has been silent on this for the last several minutes. It has just been revealed by sources, attending the food truck just outside the main parking area adjacent to the Mercedes paddock location, that Hamilton has decided to press suit against Vettel for whiplash caused by the violent rear end collision suffered 2 weeks ago in Baku. When asked why Hamilton was not wearing the symbolic neck brace, a representative of the person that picks up Rosco’s paddock poo stated that the device cramped Hamiton’s style and would potentially damage his brand as a bad boy rock star. British media has also just acquired secret footage taken with a GoPro by a fan identified as “HamLove12993” clearly showing Hamilton rubbing the back of his neck – proof positive that he is indeed suffering a massive pain in the neck caused by none other than Sebastian Vettel!

  • Peter Riva

    “Sebastian Vettel twice hit Hamilton’s car in Baku.” Yeah, right nice dig MB.

    And Hamilton is such a novice driver at 50kph that he didn’t know Vettel might collide with him as he slowed down?? Frankly, all this is so damn childish that it brings all of F1 into disrepute.

    NO WAY Hamilton is that unaware as a driver. NO WAY Vettel did the right thing after either.

    Vettel has already gotten on top of Hamilton in the psyche game – did you see the celebration for Bottas for winning? Big pats on the back, laughing in the changing room… real warriors showing respect, encouring Bottas for the next race.

    My opinion? Hamilton pulled a silly stunt, Vettel got suckered, knew it, and bumped tires – all at 50kph. Vettel was forced to be contrite (insincerely I have to admit).

    Hamilton made hay while the sun was shining – petulant, condescending, “wronged baby” pouting.

    This week, Hamilton’s sun is a little overcast. Bottas is now the enemy as well.