Mar 17, 2014

    Engine woes force Vettel and Hamilton out of race


    POLE-SITTER Lewis Hamilton and world champion Sebastian Vettel were both early casualties as the Formula One season got off to a furious start at the Australian Grand Prix yesterday.

    Vettel's record run of nine consecutive race victories ended when the quadruple world champion retired his Red Bull with a reliability problem.

    Hamilton retired on his third lap of the Albert Park circuit after an engine problem. The 29-year-old Mercedes driver, fastest in Saturday qualifying, was told to retire over his team radio due to a reliability problem and duly pitted.

    Mercedes had arrived as clear favourites after their engine looked the most reliable in pre-season testing, with Hamilton and German teammate Nico Rosberg putting in plenty of laps and carrying out race simulations without problems.

    "I think I was driving on five cylinders," Hamilton told Britain's Sky Television. "It's a bit unfortunate but that's racing."

    Meanwhile, Vettel, 26, complained of a lack of boost pressure during his pre-race installation lap and was noticeably lacking in power when taking off from 12th place on the grid.

    He told his team over the radio before the race started that "the engine is not running smoothly" and, after a few laps, headed back to the pits.

    Vettel's retirement snapped a winning streak that started at the Belgian Grand Prix in August.

    "On the second formation lap, already we lost power," he told Sky.

    "We didn't understand why and then basically I had no power from the start. The cars kept passing me. I was down. We tried to recover as much as we could.

    "At some stage, I thought there was a slight improvement but obviously we realised there was a bigger problem with the engine for some reason. I think it looked like we lost a couple of cylinders."

    Yesterday's race was the first for Formula One's new V6 turbo engine with its complicated energy recovery systems and Red Bull had arrived in Melbourne with a big question mark over their Renault power unit after problems in testing.

    "When you don't have the power from the engine, you can't make the whole system function properly and then you lose even more power and so we had to stop," said Vettel.

    "No doubt we'll fix these issues. The question is how soon.

    "We are working hard... obviously we started a bit on the back foot but we've learnt this weekend an awful lot. We also learnt the car is quick so if the package comes together, I think we would be very competitive."

    Hamilton also said the pace of the Mercedes was one of the positives from the weekend.

    "We will recover from this, it's only a small hiccup. There's a long way to go still," he added. "At the moment, I'm not concerned about anything."