Toto Wolff has revealed Lewis Hamilton could have been forced to start the Russian Grand Prix towards the back of the grid had Bernie Ecclestone not intervened to transport a necessary part from the UK to Sochi overnight.
Hamilton suffered a problem with his MGU-H during qualifying in Russia, leaving him a provisional tenth on the grid pending any potential penalties for changing any components outside of the allocated pool.
However, Mercedes' efforts were complicated by an upgrade made to the fuel system ahead of the race weekend, which meant it was missing certain spare parts to ensure the replacements were like-for-like as dictated by the regulations. Without this, Hamilton would be have been forced to take a penalty.
As a result, Mercedes would go to the lengths of chartering a flight from the UK over to Sochi overnight with the parts in question, allowing the team to make the necessary alterations in the morning ahead of the race and avoid the penalty.
However, as Wolff reveals, it was very likely the 'box' would become mired in a time-sapping customs issue had F1 supremo Ecclestone not intervened to get it hurried through.
“It was a team's effort from many people involved. Niki [Lauda] tried to organise the plane and the slot. We had various options at a certain stage and had to choose which one would come in earliest.
“Paddy's [Lowe] assistant Nicole sorted out the airport and we got the plane, got the bit on the plane, got the guy on the plane, and Bernie sorted the customs!
“The detail was that the plane landed with the box and within 90 seconds the part was in the car on the way to the airport, so I don't want to know how he sorted that! So yes he played a huge role in making Lewis start…”
Hamilton went on to finish in second position, behind Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.