A deliberate change of the monocoques on Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton’s vehicles has turn out to be one of many largest speaking factors of the race weekend. As is commonly the case with modern-day F1, by means of the chase to ham up tales in a search of controversy, the controversy has shortly been exhausted.
Briefly: it grew to become a factor that is not a factor.
Strolling the story again to Thursday, information of the chassis swap emerged after Bottas’s press convention look. Earlier this 12 months, the FIA added a fan query part to the format, giving the possibility to native youngsters to ask inquiries to the drivers. Whereas entertaining, yielding solutions about favorite films or superpowers, they’ve confirmed largely ineffective to journalists.
Not this time although. When Bottas was requested by a younger fan if he all the time drove the identical automobile, the Finn mentioned: “Generally we’d change the chassis. I believe I’ve a distinct chassis this weekend. So it isn’t all the time the identical automobile.”
This remark obtained the ball rolling. Bottas added that it was “all the time deliberate for me to alter to a distinct chassis at this level”, with Mercedes then including element that he had swapped chassis with Hamilton, transferring from #four to #6 in a transfer linked to mileage and lifing of the vehicles. Bottas had pushed chassis #5 in the beginning of the 12 months, however that is but to re-enter circulation after the crash at Imola.
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes within the Press Convention
Picture by: FIA Pool
Chassis swaps are frequent in F1, however within the context of Bottas’s tough begin to the 12 months, and notably after his struggles in Azerbaijan two weeks in the past, it grew to become a degree of intrigue. This was solely furthered when Bottas had the higher hand on Hamilton in apply on Friday, ending forward in each periods and over two-tenths clear in FP2. Hamilton had commented over workforce radio at one level that “there’s one thing not proper with the automobile”. He later revealed the workforce had been “chasing its tail” on set-up all through apply, maybe explaining his remark.
Bottas mentioned after FP2 that it was “arduous to say” if the chassis change had helped him, however Hamilton was fast to downplay it taking part in a job. “Very hardly ever do you’ve got any variations between the chassis,” Hamilton mentioned. Requested if he felt something considerably completely different together with his automobile in comparison with Baku, Hamilton mentioned: “I do not suppose so.”
However this did not cease the narrative in some corners. The very fact Hamilton was utilizing the chassis Bottas had been on the right track to complete second in Monaco with was ignored. No, it merely was the one which Bottas had struggled a lot with in Baku, that means in fact that is why Hamilton was behind on Friday…
Toto Wolff identified the chassis had been “splendid” in Monaco throughout an interview with Sky Sports activities on Friday, however made clear that if there have been any correct issues in regards to the chassis, Mercedes would in fact make a change.
Within the lead-up to qualifying, the story nonetheless wasn’t being let go. Bottas once more outpaced Hamilton by a few tenths in FP3, permitting for extra lazy observations to be spooled up. The hearth was stoked additional by former Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, who was quoted as saying on Sky Sports activities that chassis swaps weren’t normal in his time on the workforce.
But Rosberg’s remark was shortly disproved. In a tweet from 2018, Mercedes’ official account had written about chassis #1 of the Mercedes W06 from 2015: “Lewis Hamilton drove this automobile for the primary half of 2015 earlier than it grew to become Nico Rosberg’s for the second half.”
Qualifying lastly noticed the controversy get put to mattress. Each Hamilton and Bottas have been fast all through the session, often that includes on the entrance. While Max Verstappen took pole for Red Bull, Hamilton secured second on the grid, edging out Bottas in third by simply over one-tenth of a second.
“I have been usually sad within the automobile weekend,” Hamilton said in the post-qualifying interview with Paul di Resta. “I noticed you give you some delusion, and so I used to be pleased to have the ability to show it mistaken – the standard of our engineers work, you already know, all of the vehicles are precisely the identical.”
It was a robust assertion again from Hamilton that he was requested about within the press convention after qualifying. “I believe I heard yesterday that Paul was saying one thing in regards to the chassis,” Hamilton mentioned. “I believe he mentioned there was a press launch… I do not know.” (Mercedes’ Friday press launch merely listed the chassis quantity used, as is normal).
“After which simply creating the query about whether or not our chassis have been the identical, and as you possibly can see, immediately, I managed to do an amazing job with the identical automobile, so it is no completely different.”
Wolff confronted additional questioning about it on Sky Sports activities after qualifying, being requested to “clear it up”. He once more outlined that it was normal process, and that every one chassis undergo rigorous testing to make sure there are not any massive variations.
“The drivers have been knowledgeable midweek or in the direction of the race weekend that there’s a likelihood to swap and there wasn’t even a remark about it,” Wolff mentioned. “It is in a driver’s thoughts, in fact, if issues all of the sudden do not feel proper, and that’s completely honest sufficient, and we additionally supplied a chassis change in a single day. However no, we caught with what we’ve got.” Once more, had it been a problem, Mercedes would have accommodated a change for Hamilton, however the seven-time world champion noticed no cause for one.
Toto Wolff, Group Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG
Picture by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
As Wolff got here to finish his closing media name of the day, the subject had been achieved to dying. Mercedes even warned tongue-in-cheek forward of the session that there could be a “penalty level” for any journalists saying the phrases ‘chassis swap’, such was the workforce’s boredom over the matter. The primary query – predictably – was then in regards to the chassis swap.
“So which camp are you?” Wolff requested. “The one which thinks Lewis is at an obstacle, or the one which thinks Valtteri is at an obstacle?”
Our colleague clarified he was simply making an attempt to grasp what occurred, prompting Wolff to elucidate how Mercedes was managing its chassis allocation. The workforce has 4 in use in the meanwhile: #three which is in a field because the spare chassis in the meanwhile; #four, which is being utilized by Hamilton in France; #5, which is being patched up after the Imola crash; and #6, being utilized by Bottas.”
“Now we have 4 chassis, 4 carryover chassis, and possibly when you examine with the opposite massive groups, Ferrari and Purple Bull, they need to even have carryover chassis fairly than producing a brand new one as a result of the brand new one could be too costly,” Wolff mentioned.
“So we’re carrying over 4 chassis. One had a little bit of an oops in Imola. These have been all chassis that gained races over the previous couple of years and chassis which have been utilised by all people, by each drivers.
“There is a plan at first of the season, which chassis goes the place, if there’s one with the harm, when can we patch it up? When does it come again in a field as a spare chassis? There is no such thing as a different considering behind it.
“Within the modern-day and age, when these chassis come again to the manufacturing unit, they’re laser scanned. They’re checked for stiffness. And if there’s the slightest deviation, the chassis just isn’t being utilised.”
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12
Picture by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Fantasy nicely and really busted. However there may be one closing query: if two drivers are completely content material with their chassis, why would the workforce make a straight swap as an alternative of preserving them in the identical chassis for so long as attainable?
A tweet despatched yesterday from a Mercedes F1 composites designer supplied one thought: “I believe it is only a enterprise determination – chassis are value extra if Lewis has gained in them!”
It is smart. To have the ability to spotlight the success of a chassis throughout two drivers would undoubtedly make it extra priceless, with the 2018 tweet in regards to the W06 proving precisely that by noting the document for probably the most poles taken by a single chassis.
Ought to Hamilton fail to beat Bottas within the race immediately, then it is attainable the chassis swap could also be highlighted as a cause why by these in search of a lazy rationalization.
However have been it really a problem, with the margins as nice as they’re within the title race, Hamilton would have already got made it recognized, and Mercedes would have swiftly acted. Neither can afford to let any little bit of efficiency slip proper now.
So let’s put the tinfoil hats away, and hopefully by no means give oxygen to this non-story once more.