May 26, 2015

    Wrong data led to Mercedes' Monaco blunder


    THE Mercedes team were swift to apologise and commiserate with Lewis Hamilton, his fans and the disappointed followers of Formula One, after their unexpected tactical error deprived the world champion of a seemingly inevitable - and richly deserved - win in Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix.

    Just four days after the fanfare that confirmed they had re-signed the two-time champion with a new three-year contract in a deal reported to be worth more than US$120 million (S$161 million), the team were forced into an exceptional and sorrowful admission.

    "To all our disappointed fans out there, we feel your pain," Mercedes said on Twitter.

    "We got it wrong today and that's the simple fact. We will grow stronger from this."

    By calling the 30-year-old Briton in for a late and unnecessary pit-stop following an accident and the deployment of the safety car, Mercedes converted his 21sec lead into a scrap for third place, halved his championship lead and handed teammate Nico Rosberg a memorable - and rare - third consecutive win on the streets of his hometown track.

    Rosberg won by 4.486sec ahead of four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, with Hamilton third in a finish that stunned the crowd packed into the harbour of the Mediterranean principality and a worldwide television audience.

    "That was the luckiest thing in my career," said Rosberg with commendable candour as Mercedes, recognising their error, began an immediate effort to apologise and explain.

    Hamilton, understandably downcast, managed his emotions to survive the initial round of media interviews, including one on the victors' podium in which he praised his team and pledged to return and win his favourite race in the future.

    Mercedes team chiefs Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda admitted the team's blunder without excuses.

    "It was a mistake, a big mistake," said Lauda. "No arguments. It was wrong. I don't know why..."

    An hour later at the Mercedes team's motor home in the crowded waterside paddock, Wolff remained besieged by the media, seeking a proper explanation.

    He said, it was caused by the data. A calculation about the durability and performance of Hamilton's tyres with 15 laps remaining was used, and it was wrong.

    "The algorithm was wrong," said Wolff.