Lewis Hamilton has admitted that the mistake he made in qualifying today is a costly one, a study of the sector times for the drivers’ final laps shows that, in fact, it handed pole to his team mate Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton was ahead of Rosberg as the pair started their final laps in Q3. Rosberg had complained on the radio that Hamilton was going too slowly as they approached the final turns before the start/finish line. He was concerned about the chequered flag falling and not getting to start his lap. In the end he crossed the line with 14 metres to spare!
With Hamilton on provisional pole at that point, he could have ensured that Rosberg didn’t get a lap in. After all the team had made the “slight error” as Toto Wolff put it, of sending the cars out too close to the cut off time. “The start of that run was a mess, the cars were bunched up,” the Austrian added. No-one expected that the ranking would change completely and that the final sector would be 4.5 seconds faster than before”
Hamilton made a mistake in the first sector and clocked 31.198s for that sector. Rosberg was still behind him at this point. If you extrapolate the rest of his lap, from what Rosberg achieved in the Mercedes in Sectors 2 and 3, you get a lap time of 1m36.956s, which was faster than Sebastian Vettel’s 1m 37.386s in second place.
“He felt the lap was worse and bailed out,” Mercedes team boss Paddy Lowe said, “Which was unfortunate because there was a lot of time left in sector three.”
A dejected Hamilton said afterwards that he “had no information from the team that the track was going to be 4.5s quicker,” but then added that it was not the team’s fault that the lap was not completed.
So Hamilton would have qualified at least second if he had completed the lap.
But as Hamilton was just ahead of Rosberg, it is likely that he would have held the German behind him for the lap and so Rosberg might not have managed the 1m 35.766s which gave him pole. Either way the mistake handed pole to Rosberg.
This comes on the back of mistakes in Canada and Austria in the final stages of Q3. Rosberg has not been immune to these himself this year, but for Hamilton to do it three races in a row is particularly hard for him to take. This was supposed to be the race were he regrouped and rediscovered the momentum.
He can come through tomorrow and he needs to. A win for Rosberg tomorrow with Hamilton second puts the German 36 points ahead. So Hamilton could win the next five races with Rosberg second and Rosberg would still be on top in the points.