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Mercedes explain software error which denied Hamilton victory

Shovlin ensures steps already in place to prevent repeat

Mercedes have revealed the reason behind the software glitch that denied Lewis Hamilton victory at the season-opening race in Melbourne.

Hamilton appeared to have a comfortable lead during the opening stages of the Australian Grand Prix and, after he made his pit stop, looked like he would be able to manage the gap to the chasing Ferrari’s.

However, after both Hamilton and second-placed Raikkonen had made their pit stops, the virtual safety car was deployed for the stricken Haas car of Romain Grosjean.

This allowed Vettel – who had stayed out on the off-chance such a scenario would happen – to make his only pit stop under the virtual safety car and leave the pit lane ahead of Hamilton.

Whilst it appeared to be a successful tactic from Ferrari, Mercedes conceded that they would’ve been ahead of Vettel if they hadn’t been hampered by a software glitch, which misinformed the team about how much pace they required stay ahead of Ferrari driver.

With overtaking at a premium at the Albert Park circuit, Vettel was able to secure victory and an early lead in the drivers’ championship, leaving Mercedes to investigate why a likely victory had evaded them.

Speaking in their online feature Pure Pitwall, Mercedes’ trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin explained that a bug had been found in software which generate incorrect target time numbers.

“We discovered that there was an issue with the software that was telling us that at that point Lewis was safe and that Vettel would drop out behind us,” Shovlin explained.

“The issue isn’t really with the race strategy software that we use. 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 where 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 went on to reassure fans that steps were being taken to ensure there would be no repeat of the software issue.

“How we deal with these sort of problems in the software is the same as if we had a reliability issue,” Shovlin continued.

“It is really about understanding everything that went wrong, gathering all the data, and invariably it is never just one thing.

“There are elements that we can do better with calculating that, but also we have looked at in 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 in-lap 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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Luke Murphy

As an FIA-accredited motor sport journalist, degree-level Motorsport Engineer and amateur karter, Luke's passion for motor sport is evident. He is one of the editors at FormulaSpy and one of the longest-standing members of the team.

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