Lewis Hamilton’s F1 title hopes suffer ‘big hit’ at 2016 Chinese Grand Prix
PUBLISHED: 16:07 17 April 2016 | UPDATED: 16:14 17 April 2016
Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton put on a brave face after losing further ground on title rival Nico Rosberg following a dramatic 2016 Chinese Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Rosberg dominated today’s race in China to take his 17th F1 career victory.
While Rosberg chalked up his third win of the season, and sixth victory in succession, Hamilton had to produce a battling drive from the back of the grid with a damaged car on an eventful afternoon in Shanghai.
A collision with a Sauber resulted in Hamilton pitting on the first lap for a new front wing, and he made four further stops during an action-packed race.
Despite incurring significant damage to his car in that first-lap incident, the 31-year-old Mercedes star from Hertfordshire finished seventh.
With a maximum 75 points from the opening three rounds, Rosberg now leads the Drivers’ Championship by 36 points from Hamilton in second place.
After slipping further behind Robserg in the 2016 championship race, Stevenage-born Hamilton said: “That was definitely a difficult weekend.
“I got a good start – but it’s always tricky being at the back and trying not to get caught up in the domino effect of any contact at the first corner.
“I tried to avoid whatever happened in front of me but I just got tangled up in it.
“It was just a bit unfortunate, really. From there it was always going to be a battle – but I had a lot of fun fighting back through!
“There were plenty of overtakes, from what I can remember. I gave it everything I had and P7 was about the limit.
“There was nothing left in the tyres at the end and, although it’s pretty good for overtaking here, I had quite a lot of damage to the car which made it difficult to get close on the brakes.”
He added: “From what I could feel there was definitely some aero loss and possible suspension damage too, as the car seemed to be flexing all over the place.
“But that’s racing – it happens sometimes and at least I still managed to get a few points on the board.
“It’s a pretty big hit points-wise today, but I’ll just have to do what I can to make it up over the next few races. Onwards and upwards...”
Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, described the race as “a rollercoaster” for the Silver Arrows team.
Delighted to see Rosberg take the chequered flag after a “perfect weekend”, Wolff added: “For Lewis, the circumstances couldn’t have been more different.
“Hamilton put in a great recovery drive and pulled off some great overtakes – but the damage to the car meant the tyres didn’t last as long as we had hoped.”
“He got a great start, tried to stay out of trouble in the first corners and still got collected by a Sauber, who was avoiding another car coming back on track.
“His front wing was lodged under the car for a while, which damaged the leading edge of the floor and cost him a chunk of downforce for the rest of the race – though it was hard to know exactly how much during the race.”
Hamilton pitted again when the Safety Car was deployed and stopped for tyres five times in all.
Wolff added: “We did something different with him under the Safety Car, cycling through the SuperSoft tyre with no loss of position, in order to open up some strategic options later in the race.
“Lewis did a great job to recover what he could with a car that was significantly underperforming.”
“He put in a great recovery drive and pulled off some great overtakes – but the damage to the car meant the tyres didn’t last as long as we had hoped and made it hard to catch cars through Turn 13 before the back straight.
“He still did a great job and kept charging to the end – but it was damage limitation again for him this afternoon.”
Paddy Lowe, Mercedes’ executive director, revealed the team had even considered starting Hamilton from the pit lane – a move that might have seen him avoid his first-lap prang.
Lowe said: “One of the debates we actually had overnight was whether to do a bit more work to the car and start him from the pit lane, which ironically would have been a better decision in hindsight given what happened at the first corner.
“Equally, Lewis had by far his best start of the season, which ironically contributed to him being caught up in the cascade of collisions ahead of him.
“So, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances all round put him on the back foot straight away.
“We could see that there were problems with the car – both aerodynamic and mechanical – affecting him through the low-speed corners in particular.
“Under the Safety Car, we chose to perform consecutive pit stops with Lewis to get rid of the SuperSoft and enable us to run the rest of the race on the Soft, which was the stronger race tyre.
“As it transpired, his first set of Softs were cut from the first corner incident – something we were unaware of at the time – which meant we were then forced to run the Medium at the end of the race, rendering our SuperSoft eliminating tactic redundant.
“So, overall, Lewis did a great job to recover what he could with a car that was significantly underperforming.”
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Welwyn Hatfield Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.