Lewis Hamilton seemed to get a little coy with his team in the later stages of the race as it became clear he wouldn’t be on the podium in Melbourne.
Mercedes offered an explanation for Lewis Hamilton’s direct radio message towards the end of the Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton finished the race fourth, just outside the podium places while teammate George Russell managed to snatch third place. With the other Mercedes ahead and Max Verstappen out of contention with another mechanical issue, he could have been frustrated to miss out on another top three finish.
It certainly sounded like he was annoyed as he spoke to his race engineer towards the end of the race. When it became clear he would be propelled onto the podium by Russell, he said: “You put me in a really difficult position.”
With no immediate explanation as to why he was so irritated, the general assumption was that his frustration was due to losing track position to fellow Mercedes due to the timing of the pit stops. Russell had benefited from a safety car as he changed his tires while losing less time.
The team decided to clarify that Hamilton’s annoyance came about because he was struggling to make sure his engine didn’t overheat. “It was all about cooling the engine and keeping the engine cool during the race,” explained James Vowles, director of motorsport strategy.
“We push everything to the limit, as you can imagine, and one of them is engine cooling, and you do that by closing the body or changing the design of the slats on the back of the This decision is made on Saturday, but obviously we race on Sunday, 24 hours later.
“In this particular circumstance, the atmosphere [temperature] was one, maybe two degrees warmer than expected. As a result of this we – and not just ourselves, you would have heard from the teams up and down the grid – were at the limit of what the engine and PU can handle in terms of the needs of cooling.”
Vowles’ explanation matches what Hamilton said after the race when he too was asked about the terse radio message. The seven-time world champion told reporters in Melbourne: “I couldn’t fight for third place because the engine was overheating. So I had to back up, so I just had to sit behind .”
Finishing third and fourth was another good result for a Mercedes team struggling to compete with Red Bull and Ferrari at the start of the season. They took advantage of the retirements of Verstappen and Carlos Sainz to achieve what Hamilton described as “a great result for us as a team”.
“This weekend we had so many difficult moments with the car,” he added. “So to get fifth and sixth in qualifying and progress like we did and have the reliability, and we certainly didn’t expect to get third, fourth. And George did a great job today. We bagged as many points as we could as a team and that’s great.”