Home - The Official Formula 1 Website Skip to content

Pre-US analysis - has cracked chassis cost Hamilton? 15 Nov 2013

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, USA, Thursday, 14 November 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04 leads Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 3 November 2013 Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, USA, Thursday, 14 November 2013 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, USA, Thursday, 14 November 2013 Alexander Rossi (ITA) Caterham F1 Reserve Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, USA, Thursday, 14 November 2013 Rodolfo Gonzalez (VEN) Marussia F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Preparations, Saturday, 26 October 2013 Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso 
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, USA, Thursday, 14 November 2013

Lewis Hamilton will begin first practice in Austin on Friday morning with a mixture of determination and relief.

The 2008 world champion described his form since his victory in Hungary as “shocking” on Thursday, but it has emerged that damage to his Mercedes MGP W04’s chassis could have had a serious bearing on his recent performances when the car seemed unresponsive. Following a particularly disappointing showing in Abu Dhabi, where team mate Nico Rosberg finished second and Hamilton only seventh, the team stripped his chassis down and discovered several compromising cracks in the structure.

"Maybe it’s the direction the car went, I don't really know,” he said when asked why things had been so inconsistent. “I’m just as focused, but maybe the set-up direction we have been going hasn't been right, though sometimes you can feel like you haven’t been in the right place at the right time.

"In Suzuka we should have had a good race, I was really quick, and the wing level I had there was really different to Nico so we should have been really good that weekend. But I was unlucky to get a puncture right at the start.

"In Abu Dhabi the qualifying didn't help and it spiralled down from then on. So I’m hoping this weekend to put myself in a better position. I feel positive. There are pros and cons of having less downforce and having high downforce, in terms of overtaking and being overtaken, so we are looking into that here but nothing’s been decided on yet. The problem I’ve had recently is that I’ve been stuck in a lot of traffic and haven’t been able to go past, so it definitely doesn't make the performance seem so good. Generally the car is good over one lap, so it’s quick enough - quicker than a lot of cars - but sometimes in the race we are not able to show that."

He’ll have a new chassis this weekend, after the cracks were found in his old one.

"Lewis's results in Abu Dhabi were not what we expected, particularly compared to Nico,” team principal Ross Brawn said. “Nico did a great job, but what was puzzling was that some of the behaviour of Lewis' car wasn't consistent with what we saw with Nico. Subsequently we had a very good look at the car and we found that the chassis was quite badly damaged - more than we thought. We knew Lewis had had some excursions over kerbs and things, but when we actually got here and started to strip everything down, the damage was pretty significant. It may even be at a level that was affecting the handling of the car. At what point the cracks became significant is difficult to say, but certainly they were not good.”

Meanwhile, his old sparring partner Felipe Massa has been telling everyone how excited he is about his imminent departure from Ferrari to Williams.

“I feel like this is a new start for me,” the Brazilian said. “The team really wants me for what I can bring in terms of my experience and the speed I have proven over so many years, and everything I have asked for, they have given me without the need for any negotiation. I feel like I am really valued, and that they really want me for who I am, and that will make such a big difference to the way I can go about my racing next year.”

Friday’s first US session will also give rookies Alexander Rossi, Rodolfo Gonzalez and Daniil Kvyat further experience in the big league. Rossi has been heavily involved in all Caterham’s team preparations and knows the track well, and having an American driver is a key part of the race’s long-term success in engaging spectators and fans who watch on television.

Gonzalez has already had several FP1 outings with Marussia, so every session gives him an opportunity not only to increase his practical experience but also to create a positive impression that can help to move him closer to a future race drive.

Kvyat already has that race drive secured for 2014, at Toro Rosso, but the 19-year-old Russian will be equally keen to impress as he makes his official F1 debut in FP1, having secured the 2013 GP3 Series title at the last round in Abu Dhabi.

For tickets and travel to 2013 FORMULA 1 races, click here.
For FORMULA 1 merchandise, click here.