Toto, a tough day for the team all things considered: what exactly was the issue with the cars?
At almost exactly the same time on both cars, we had a failure of the MGU-K control system. Both drivers had the same power units, were racing at the same pace and running at the same temperatures. Those temperatures, around the power supply to the MGU-K in particular, were higher than expected. What we didn’t expect is that it would have such a significant impact. The MGU-K shut down on both cars and unfortunately we couldn’t reset it. We keep these things under constant observation and are aware of the points at which they should become critical. In this case, it was something we hadn’t experienced before. We’ve been so diligent with this new technology, but then you have one small glitch that can shut down an entire system. These things can happen but it was extremely detrimental to our race. It’s something we have to analyse, understand and rectify.
Despite suffering the same malfunction, one car finished the race while the other was forced to retire: why was that?
When you lose the electric motor you lose the braking power from that system, so the brakes were overheating quite significantly on both cars. We told the drivers to manage the brakes: to change the balance forwards and to be as careful as they could be. Both of them did exactly what was asked of them but these things are extremely marginal. Sitting in the pits, the temperatures were getting even higher as there was no cooling to help control the levels. Unfortunately for Lewis, when he left the pits his brakes started to go soft and then the pedal went straight to the floor at the final chicane. It was just as case of extremely bad luck for Lewis, while Nico was more fortunate.
This opens the gap between the drivers in the championship once more: is it now a one-horse race?
First of all, we are sorry to have let Lewis down. It’s a real shame, particularly when the championship battle is as close as it is this year, but he’s in good spirits. He’s a fighter and I have no doubt that he will come back stronger than ever. There is still a long way to go with twelve races remaining – thirteen if you count the double points round – so his challenge is far from over. This race shows how quickly things can change, so I think it will go right down to the last race. As for Nico, he deserved the points he gained. He was managing a car that was severely handicapped compared to those around him, but managed to pull out a mega first sector where the power loss was not so influential for lap after lap. It was a great drive.
Before the problems emerged, there were a couple of moments between the two drivers which have been widely debated: what’s your take on those?
In terms of the first, at the start, Lewis was better off the line than Nico and they were running side-by-side into Turn One. Nico was late on the brakes and ran deep into the corner, which meant Lewis had to back off and go onto the grass. In my view it was hard but fair racing. Then, later on, Nico came into the final chicane two car lengths in front of Lewis and emerged five ahead of him after locking his brakes and going straight on. The stewards could have given him a five second penalty or a warning and the second option was what they decided to do. He actually affected his own race, as he badly flat-spotted a tyre Lewis flagged it to us on the radio – which is totally normal – but it was a tricky situation to call and in the end we were all ok with the decision.