After reducing Nico Rosberg’s lead in the Formula One world championships substantially over the last two races, it was thought that Lewis Hamilton would now take a stranglehold in the 2016 title race. But the European Grand Prix in Azerbaijan saw the English driver fall even further behind, after he suffered a disastrous weekend that now leaves him 24 points adrift of his German team-mate.
During the practice sessions Lewis Hamilton looked to be in impervious form, which was hardly a surprise considering that he was coming off the back of winning the last two races in Monaco and Canada, respectively. However his qualifying for the European Grand Prix was beset with problems, as he made numerous mistakes before crashing into a wall in the final session, which meant that he ended up 10th.
Nico Rosberg has won the European Grand Prix in Baku with Sebastian Vettel second and Sergio Perez third – Lewis Hamilton finished fifth
— Sky News Newsdesk (@SkyNewsBreak) June 19, 2016
Afterwards Lewis Hamilton described it as an “off day,” as he instantly looked to move on in the race itself. Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg qualified in first place, and because of the tight circuit, and the fact that Mercedes has thoroughly dominated throughout practice and qualifying, it was believed that the German would easily saunter to race victory.
That’s exactly what happened, as Rosberg managed to lead from the first corner and simply drove off way into the distance ahead of his rivals for what could possibly have been the easiest victory of his career so far. Hamilton on the other hand suffered even more problems, though, which meant that he wasn’t able to fully take advantage of his car’s clear superiority, and he only managed to finish in 5th place.
According to the BBC, Lewis Hamilton, who has won the two previous world championships with Mercedes to add to the 2008 title that he won at McLaren, suffered an engine setting issue that soon scuppered what had actually been a rather impressive start to the race from the Brit.
Hamilton made a rather slow start to the race, but soon began to pick off the drivers in front of him. In fact, after just 11 laps, Hamilton had managed to navigate his way around the track so well that he was suddenly up to fourth position, and he was also challenging Sergio Perez of Force India for third.
But Hamilton soon ran into issues with car, though. Despite being right behind the Mexican driver and attempting various moves on him, Hamilton was unable to find a way past. Then Hamilton began to complain about vibration issues that were arising from the tyres, a problem that had begun to manifest itself because of the damage that he’d done to his wheels during qualifying.
— F1 on NBC Sports (@F1onNBCSports) June 19, 2016
After a few more laps, which also included Mercedes trying to get Hamilton past Perez at the pit stops, Hamilton started to drop back, and over the radio the two communicated that there was a problem with an engine setting. Unfortunately, Hamilton was unable to fix it from inside the car, which meant that he had to consolidate fifth place, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen having overtaken both Perez and Hamilton during their pit stops, rather than pushing ahead.
Explaining the problem after the Grand Prix, a Mercedes spokesperson remarked, “Nico had made a change during the race that caused the issue. So when told it was an issue with the mode, as permitted by FIA, he switched back out of it. Lewis had the setting from start of race and it was not obvious that this setting was causing the problem. The fundamental problem is on our heads as it was a configuration not working properly, not the driver’s fault. But the radio rules complicated things drastically: without this, it would have been solved immediately.”
[Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images]