Mercedes have confirmed that Lewis Hamilton was on the verge of being retired from yesterday’s British Grand Prix if the red flag had not been brought out to repair damage to a barrier at Copse corner.
Hamilton, who started second on the grid, tangled with championship leader Max Verstappen on the opening lap of the race, sending Verstappen into the barrier and giving Hamilton damage as the safety car was brought to clear the damaged barrier and Verstappen's destroyed Red Bull.
Shortly afterwards, the red flag was shown to give the marshals enough time to repair the damage at Copse, with Mercedes immediately inspecting Hamilton’s car in the pitlane for damage.
The team found an issue with the front left wheel rim and quickly replaced it during the red flag period, with Hamilton going on to win the race from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc despite a ten second time penalty for the incident with Verstappen.
Mercedes’s trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin later commented to Motorsport.com that Hamilton's car would have been retired if the race hadn’t been stopped.
"We'd failed the rim where we had the contact at the front left, so that would've been a DNF had it not been red-flagged. But the rest of the damage was actually remarkably little. It was a tyre temperature sensor that had got knocked loose so it was waggling around but, amazingly, it's the least important part on the front wing and it was the only one that broke."
Shovlin believed that Hamilton’s mentality changed when he was told by his Mercedes race strategy that he would catch Leclerc with two laps left to go, with Shovlin talking of his enjoyment of watching Hamilton’s final stint as he passed the Ferrari on the exit of Copse.
"From our planners during the race which are forecasting it live, we were looking at catching him with two laps to go, when we thought it was on was probably five laps into that, you normally see the drop on the tyres and you could just see Lewis holding this eight-tenths advantage to Charles every lap.”
"Lewis just wasn't dropping off and the balance was happy. And, to be honest, with Lewis, you can hear it in his voice in what he's saying on the radio. You just get this switch where he knows in his head he's going to do it today and, to be honest, it was really nice sitting on the pitwall just watching that final stint unfold because it was a great and well-deserved win."