Mercedes says the two seconds Lewis Hamilton lost under a late Virtual Safety Car during Formula 1’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix was not down to driver error.

The gap between Hamilton and race-leader Valtteri Bottas had been fluctuating at just under the two-second mark prior to the VSC being deployed for Pierre Gasly’s stricken Red Bull. But when racing resumed with 10 laps to go, the gap had risen to 3.5s, preventing Hamilton from being close enough to challenge for the win in the closing stages.

The reigning world champion had initially suggested the lost time was a result of a mistake on his behalf, but Mercedes has since ruled that out, instead blaming the set-back on his positioning on track at the time of the VSC ending and steering wheel dash settings which meant Hamilton had “lost sight” of what his delta time was.

“During the VSC at the end of the race, you will have seen Lewis lose a couple of seconds of race time relative to Valtteri, which could have been crucial for the win,” strategy chief James Vowles said in Mercedes’ latest post-race debrief video.

“When the VSC ends, the driver gets a notification on his dash, and that’s something that we have the ability to control what’s displayed and what’s not.

“We asked Lewis to do a number of switch changes, which is normal, to put the car into a more performant mode. But with every change, he lost sight of what that delta time was.

“The other factor that was contributing here was that if you are in a straight line and the VSC ends, all you have to do is manage the throttle, get on the throttle and go straight.

“But Lewis wasn’t, he was in a braking zone for the VSC, one of the most difficult situations because now it’s very difficult to modulate where you are on the delta time and get ready for the VSC restart.

“A combination of all of that put together means that Lewis didn’t make a mistake. It’s where he was on track and a number of switch changes that just masked where he was in exact delta time and he lost around two seconds.”

Vowles said Mercedes will now work to make improvements to its steering wheel display in time for the upcoming Spanish Grand Prix in a bit to prevent a repeat scenario from occurring.

“We from our side can certainly do more work to make that better in terms of a dash display going forwards to Barcelona, and we will do,” he explained.

“The luck of the draw as to where you are under the VSC, unfortunately, will always be the same way.”

You can watch the full video below.

 

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