Mercedes says a “bug” in an offline tool used for its Formula 1 Virtual Safety Car calculations caused the issue that led to Lewis Hamilton losing the Australian Grand Prix.

Hamilton looked favourite to win the season-opening race in Melbourne, having pulled clear from pole position in the early stages. However, his hopes of victory were dashed when Sebastian Vettel emerged ahead of the Briton after pitting during a VSC period, allowing the German track position as he ultimately sealed a shock win for Ferrari. 

Mercedes and Hamilton were left in “disbelief” over the defeat and initially blamed a software glitch for the timing error that led to Hamilton being leapfrogged, but after concluding its investigation into what went wrong, a new diagnosis has been revealed. 

“The issue isn't really with the race strategy software that we use,” trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said in the team’s latest episode of its Pure Pitwall race debrief. "It was an offline tool that we create these delta lap times with, and we found a bug in that tool that meant that it gave us the wrong number.

"The number that we were calculating was around 15 seconds, and in reality the number was slightly short of 13 seconds, so that was what created our delta. 

“That is why we thought we were safe. We thought we had a bit of margin and then you saw the result. We dropped out, we were in second place and it is very difficult to overtake and we couldn't get through.”

Shovlin insists the team is treating the error with the same seriousness as a reliability issue in order to ensure the situation never happened again. 

“It is really about understanding everything that went wrong, gathering all the data, and invariably it is never just one thing.  So there are elements that we can do better with calculating that, but we have also looked at it for future.

“We are going to make sure we have more margin because we want to be able to cover for Vettel doing an amazingly good inlap to the pits, or having an incredibly fast stop. 

“So with any of these things, we look at what went wrong, work out how to solve it and then put the processes in place to make sure we don't have a repeat.”

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