Photo: Petronas AMG Mercedes Media
Photo: Petronas AMG Mercedes Media

Did you hear about the Formula One at the weekend? Lewis Hamilton should have been disqualified!

Whoa there cowboy, let’s not get too carried away. Yes, it seems there was a small problem with the air pressure in the tyres of Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes’, but there’s more to it than that.

Alright, what happened then?

Well, thanks to a couple of high speed failures of the Pirelli tyres in Belgium two weeks previous, both the FIA and Pirelli came to an agreement on a specific minimum pressure for rear tyres of 19.5 PSI. Both of the Mercedes cars on the starting grid had less than that, and that’s what led to all the hoo-hah.

They got away with it though. How did they manage that?

Well, yes, they didn’t get punished for it. The thing is, it took three hours for a decision to be made as Mercedes senior staff wanted to argue their case, naturally.

The left rear tyre on Hamilton’s car was 0.3 PSI under the target, while Rosberg’s was 1.1 PSI. While that doesn’t seem much, and certainly not enough to generate a massive performance gain, the technical regulation was still broken and that’s why the FIA launched the investigation.

Ultimately the stewards were happy with the procedures Mercedes followed in regards to the rules. The stated that ‘the pressure in the tyres concerned were at the minimum start pressure recommended by Pirelli when they were fitted to the car’, which meant they were legal. and that ‘tyres were significantly below the maximum permitted tyre blanket temperature at the time of FIA’s measurement on the grid’. Crucially, Mercedes were found to have followed the correct procedure ahead of the race ‘for the safe operation of the tyres’.

Translation: no foul play.

But some F1 teams have been sneaky in the past – what if they’ve found a loophole in the regulations?

You do know your F1. While it’s feasible that teams are still looking for loopholes with Pirelli tyres, this isn’t one of them. Mercedes themselves were one of the teams to suffer a failure in Belgium, with Nico Rosberg, so why would they push the limits to the very edge once more? It’s feasible, but they’d be found out quite quickly, as we saw unfold after the chequered flag.

Plus, their car advantage at Monza was just downright ridiculous. They could have fitted square tyres and been two-tenths faster than the Ferraris per lap.

They left it a bit late to alert Mercedes though, didn’t they? Why didn’t they black flag them in the early laps? Or put more air in on the grid?

Blimey, good knowledge of flag procedure.

According to the FIA statement, the notice didn’t reach the team until 15.04, a good two hours after the checks were made, and around 15 minutes of the race left to run. By that time both the Mercedes drivers had made their one and only stops and changed the offending tyres for newer ones that probably were legal. This is also why they didn’t add any more air on the grid too – in their eyes, Mercedes had done everything by the book.

And didn’t they tell him to go faster at the end? What about F1 being all about conserving tyres and fuel these days?

They did, but only as a precaution of what might happen. Imagine the situation where Lewis wins the race by 20 seconds, yet gets slapped with a post race time penalty of 25 seconds. That would be galling to say the least, so Mercedes pitwall wanted that cushion in case of that eventuality, and 30 seconds had to be the target time (that’s usually the biggest time penalty you can get).

So what happens now?

Not much really, it’s been put to bed in regards to the Italian race. The other teams that were in contention – Ferrari, Williams and maybe Force India – will argue the point that rules are rules and you can’t just bend them slightly; you either have the tyres at or above the correct pressure or you don’t, there’s no grey areas.

This is one of those events in F1 that could have been a disqualification if the silver-tongued top brass at Mercedes weren’t so, but they knew they weren’t in the wrong at any time and could prove it. Another storm in a tea cup to go with the rest of them, like Ferrari’s bargeboards in Malaysia ’99, Michael Schumacher winning in the pits in Britain in ’98, etc, etc. 

Guess you could say everyone has to “tread” carefully from now on?

Ha. Good one.