Last weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix was arguably Mercedes’ best chance for its first win of the season, given that Lewis Hamilton and George Russell had shown incredible pace all weekend at Autodromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
While it was Max Verstappen who ultimately took another victory, many had been pushing Mercedes to take the win after what had been a solid weekend.
Russell had managed to dominate FP2 and FP3, while Hamilton took first place in Q1 and Q2, before everything apparently went wrong in Q3.
Before Q3, Hamilton was the favorite to claim a 104th career pole position; alas, it was not as a result of a problem with his Mercedes power unit.
Hamilton reported to his team during the second quarter that he was suffering from partial engine cuts, which Mercedes director of motorsport strategy James Vowles said caused a “loss in performance”.
This problem persisted in Q3, resulting in the seven-time world champion only qualifying third, rather than pole.
A mistake on his first lap in Q3 also prevented Hamilton from pushing hard on his final qualifying lap as he needed a lap time in the standings.
The problem was not as present during the race; however, Hamilton still complained about cutouts in Sunday’s main event, with Russell also reporting issues with the power delivery in his W13.
As the Mexico City site is 2,200 meters above sea level, a number of teams struggled in the high altitude conditions, with engine failure a factor throughout the weekend -end.
Vowles revealed that “conditions” were the reason for the engine cuts, with the powertrain usually set to a drastically different climate.
“You typically map the engine for the conditions it’s used the most, which is sea level,” Vowles explained in a video posted by the team.
“This is where most of the races take place.
“When you suddenly go up to those altitude levels you’re in a very different condition and instead of having a really, really well tuned engine you’re back in a condition where you have to do a lot of work with the unit. of power in a very short period of time to try and map out those irregularities. I’m sure all teams will suffer from this, it won’t be unique to us.
Hamilton’s cutout problem was more persistent in qualifying than in the race due to Saturday’s session where the power units were used to their full potential, with more ‘quick’ action on the ‘speed pedal’. ‘accelerator”.
With the riders being less aggressive with the throttle during the race, to save fuel and manage their tires, the Silver Arrows expected the issue to be “better in the race”, which it clearly was.
“It’s usually accentuated in qualifying because you’re hitting the accelerator very quickly and quickly, which means the turbo and fuel systems have to follow that change very quickly,” Vowles explained.
“Normally, it’s better in the race. We were hoping the racing wouldn’t be as bad and that comes down to a factor when the riders are asking for throttle and accelerating it just wasn’t delivering the power they are asking for fast enough so [not] enough fuel or enough air.
“It can be sorted out in time and where we got to the race was not a bad position, I think qualifying was worse. But still enough to cause a small loss of performance for both drivers.