HUNGARORING, 26th July 2014 (F1Plus / Graham Keilloh) - Lewis Hamilton would be forgiven for thinking that a few weeks ago he must have done something to gravely offend the Goddess Fortune.
His last qualifying and race weekend not containing major problems or unusual occurrences was all the way back in Barcelona, in early May. Six rounds ago in other words.
And almost unbelievably it continued today, when Hamilton’s Mercedes caught alight right at the start of the qualifying session before he’d set a time – a result of a fuel leak – ending his session there and then.
It consigned him to P21 in qualifying, and it’s transpired subsequently that he’ll have to start tomorrow’s race from the pit lane due to the subsequent chassis and gearbox damage.
Of course too this particular fire ignited the latest round of fan comment on social media regarding conspiracies – that Mercedes was out to scupper Lewis, so as a German team aid a German driver in the shape of his stable mate Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton possibly stoked the fire too with words that could be interpreted as loaded: “It’s getting to the point where it’s beyond bad luck now,” he said “as a team, we need to do better.”
Equally though that could be reference to Mercedes reliability generally, which all in the Brackley team admit is not nearly good enough.
The frustration of Lewis Hamilton fans is understandable, given the persistence of his ill-luck as well as that the share of Mercedes technical problems has been far from equitable – Hamilton now having four (including qualifying ones) crippling stoppages to Rosberg’s one.
This is a point acknowledged by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who visibly after qualifying shared the frustration both with the car’s general unreliability and its seemingly inequitable nature.
“These are his fans and we have to understand that they are extremely upset about him losing out to Nico because of a reliability issue in the same way that we are upset for him as we want this championship to go until the last race, we want the two cars to fight it out on track, and not have a championship influenced by reliability issues.
“We must solve the reliability problems…It is not something we will accept. We will tackle it very hard in order to get on top of these problems, and we have various issues in Hockenheim,
"we had a brake disc failure which wasn’t exactly the fault of the team, today we have to find out what happened, so it’s not always clear where it comes from."
“I’m extremely upset for Lewis…the championship is very tight and it’s a shame for him.”
Rosberg today too acknowledged that fortune has been smiling on him lately, as well as that there is something of ‘there but for the grace of God’ about his serene progress right now.
“Of course I recognise that fact (that Hamilton has had more reliability problems), and I feel fortunate in a way that less of them have happened to me, but then further than that I try to focus on what I’m doing and get the maximum out of what I can influence.”
Rosberg also was asked that what if any input a driver could have on reliability, and he in effect admitted that there’s not a lot, beyond persuasion.
“All I can do is put positive pressure on the team, to keep on pushing which they’re doing anyway but if we do positive criticism, constructive criticism that’s the best thing that I can do.”
It was also pointed out by one journalist in this Mercedes press conference however that last year at Merc it was Rosberg that had the lion’s share of breakdowns, experiencing three to Lewis’s none, which ironically now makes the Lewis-Nico unreliability match-up all-in four apiece.