5 of the Most Interesting Radio Messages from Brazilian Grand Prix
Despite winning 10 races in the 2015 Formula One season, Lewis Hamilton is currently experiencing something of a drought.
After missing out on victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix, the newly crowned three-time world champion is without a win in two races, forced to settle for second behind Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in both.
And Hamilton didn't exactly cover himself in glory at Interlagos, moaning about anything from the track layout to his team's strategy over pit-to-car radio.
Rosberg, meanwhile, ensured it was a race he couldn't lose by controlling almost every aspect of Hamilton's afternoon, frequently discussing his team-mate's progress with his race engineer.
The German's second consecutive victory came just 24 hours after a brief drama in qualifying, when he persuaded his team that his average lap time would still be good enough to make the top-10 shootout.
With a look at Jenson Button's angry response to his McLaren-Honda team and Kimi Raikkonen's complaints, here are five of the most interesting radio messages from a rather downbeat Brazilian GP.
Lewis Hamilton Increasingly Frustrated Behind Nico Rosberg
Lewis Hamilton has risen to a whole new level of maturity in the 2015 season, often remaining calm under pressure and sealing his third title with three rounds to spare.
But despite his strong pace against Nico Rosberg throughout the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend, something—perhaps as a direct consequence of his troubled pre-race preparations—didn't feel quite right, with Hamilton becoming increasingly petulant as the race progressed.
His complaints began as early as Lap 21 of 71, when—according to the FIA television feed—Hamilton, running within a second of Rosberg, said, "At this rate, my tyres are not gonna last," only for race engineer Pete Bonnington to soon reassure him that degradation was "very low on all cars, including ourselves."
On Lap 25, Hamilton became more animated as he came ever closer to Rosberg—who appeared to be backing up his team-mate at that stage of the race—but found himself unable to get close enough to take the lead.
"Impossible to follow (on) this track!" he shouted.
After qualifying, Hamilton told Sky Sports' Pete Gill that, due to the characteristics of the circuit, the start and the pit stops would represent his only chance to pass Rosberg in the race.
And now convinced that it would be impossible to make the move in wheel-to-wheel combat, Hamilton pleaded with the pit wall to help him overthrow his team-mate.
"Can you get me on a different strategy somehow?" he asked, according to Autosport's live Twitter commentary. "I'm faster but it's impossible to overtake."
Mercedes' dedication to ensuring that their drivers compete equally and fairly, though, meant switching the strategies was never an option, with Bonnington suggesting that Hamilton could only try to extend his second stint and use the benefit of fresher rubber to pressurise Rosberg in the closing stages.
"So Lewis, the only other real option to protect the P2 or try and go for the win is to stretch this stint long and just put us on a tyre offset for the end. We'd still be on the same tyre, but just different tyre age," he said in Lap 28.
Hamilton, though, was unable to stretch his stints—making each of his three pit stops immediately after Rosberg made his—and was resigned to defeat at the beginning of the final phase of the race. Indeed, his lockup at Turn 10 while gesturing toward Romain Grosjean seemed to epitomise his afternoon, and Hamilton was convinced his car was damaged on Lap 55.
"I think I've damaged my floor," he reported, with Bonnington again confirming that there were "no problems" with the "aero data" on Lap 58.
With three laps remaining, Hamilton confirmed his second-place finish by reporting that his tyres had "gone off," with Bonnington left to console his driver after the chequered flag.
"OK Lewis, well done, mate. P2, I'm afraid. But, er, yep, we all know how hard it is to even follow around here, let alone overtake."
Nico Rosberg Does Everything to Keep Lewis Hamilton Behind
While Lewis Hamilton ultimately did himself few favours in the Brazilian GP, much of his frustration was a result of Nico Rosberg's handling of his team-mate.
The German can often be guilty of focusing too much on Hamilton—as we saw most notably in July's Hungarian GP, when he changed his tyre strategy to needlessly cover the No. 44 car—but in Brazil, Rosberg destroyed his team-mate's race as systematically, effectively and brilliantly as he did in mid-2014.
Indeed, the vast majority of his radio messages throughout the Interlagos race referenced Hamilton as Rosberg did everything possible to prevent the three-time world champion finding a way past.
On Lap 19, as Hamilton increased his speed and pressurised the race leader, Rosberg was told to expect an attack from behind.
"Lewis is trying quite hard," warned his race engineer, Tony Ross, according to the FIA TV feed, suggesting Hamilton had been given permission to use a more aggressive engine mode.
Rosberg responded by easing his pace rather dramatically in the second stint, ensuring Hamilton lost both grip and downforce in his turbulent air.
The intention, of course, was to harm Hamilton's tyres and therefore prevent him from taking the lead during the second round of pit stops.
And when he was informed that Mercedes were changing from a two- to a three-stop strategy on Lap 36, Rosberg was eager to learn how Hamilton performed in free air on ageing rubber.
"So Nico, we are going Plan B, we're going Plan B," Ross explained.
"What happened to Lewis at the end of the stint? Did his tyres degrade?"
"Affirm, affirm," confirmed the pit wall. "He couldn't keep the pace."
With Interlagos among the shortest circuits on the F1 calendar, traffic was a major issue in Brazil—the Mercedes cars, for instance, lapped the Manors four times over the course of the 71-lap race—and Rosberg was urged to navigate the lapped cars quickly and efficiently.
"There's a lot of traffic to get through," Ross said on Lap 50. "We wanna keep that gap to Lewis."
"Has he stopped?" Rosberg asked, presumably unable to spot his team-mate in his rear-view mirrors.
"Yes, affirm. Lewis has stopped, he's two seconds behind you."
On the following lap—and in all-or-nothing mode, having made his final stop—Hamilton made one, last effort to pressurise his team-mate. And again, Ross was there to warn his driver of the threat.
"He's trying hard, Nico. So his wear will be the same as yours if you push at the same pace."
Feeling the pressure on Lap 57—and perhaps still haunted by his mistake in the closing stages of the United States GP, where an unforced error saw him gift the win to Hamilton—Rosberg told Ross to keep quiet over the remaining 14 laps.
"Don't talk anymore," he ordered in a flustered tone of voice.
There was, however, nothing to worry about as Hamilton was unable to sustain his pace, allowing Rosberg to take his fifth win of the season—and his second in succession—by a reasonably comfortable margin after a superbly managed, defensive performance.
Nico Rosberg Decides Against an Extra Lap in Q2
Since the qualifying rules were tweaked at the beginning of 2014—forcing drivers to start the race on the set of tyres with which they posted their fastest time in Q2, rather than Q3—there has been a slight shift in approach to the second segment.
Rather than pursuing the fastest possible time, drivers and teams—particularly those at the very front of the grid—now search for a clean lap with no mistakes, no lockups, no flat spots and, essentially, nothing that may come back to haunt them in the first stint of the grand prix.
With enough pace in hand to top the time sheets at will in one-lap conditions, the Mercedes drivers can afford to make minimal effort but still gain the maximum results, preserving their rubber for the race.
But after his first run of Q2 at Interlagos, Nico Rosberg—struggling with understeer—produced a lap that was 0.548 seconds slower than Lewis Hamilton, leaving him wondering whether that time would be enough for him to make the top-10 shootout.
"Is that fast enough, do you think?" Rosberg asked the pit wall, per the FIA TV feed, with around 10 minutes of Q2 remaining. "Or should I try another one?"
"So Nico, we will go for Lap 3," replied Tony Ross, eager to play it safe. "We will go for Lap 3."
Knowing an extra lap would effectively be a waste of rubber ahead of a race featuring up to three pit stops, however, Rosberg was less enthusiastic about the prospect of completing another effort and followed his team-mate's lead by questioning the team's wisdom.
"Are you sure? That's really a big compromise. That's got to be quick enough, come on."
Ross, to his credit, listened to his driver's plea and quickly changed his mind, calling Rosberg back to the pits.
"So we will box, Nico, box, box, box. Just watch your delta."
So there Rosberg sat in the garage, taking his calculated gamble, hoping the circuit wouldn't dramatically evolve and praying the lap times wouldn't suddenly tumble, denying him a place in the top 10.
And when the session came to an end, the German had only dropped down to third, his relatively mediocre time still 0.776 seconds faster than 11th-placed Felipe Nasr, offering yet another reminder of the pleasure of driving a Mercedes in modern-day Formula One.
Even when Hamilton and Rosberg produce a poor, scruffy lap, they are still comfortably quicker than the rest of the field.
Jenson Button Annoyed with Timing of McLaren-Honda Message
Jenson Button is, arguably, the most charming driver over pit-to-car radio, having spent much of 2015 ridiculing McLaren-Honda's lack of competitiveness and making witty mid-race observations.
But even F1's coolest character can occasionally lose his composure.
Being spoken to under braking or in the midst of wheel-to-wheel battle, when concentration levels are at their highest, is the pet hate of most racing drivers, whose focus can be disturbed with the slightest nugget of information concerning brake temperatures or pit-stop strategies.
And when Button was contacted by the pit wall during the Brazilian GP, the 2009 world champion reacted angrily.
"Right, Jenson," said his race engineer, Tom Stallard, on Lap 52, per the FIA TV feed. "We'll stick with target minus four, target minus four."
"Tom, stop talking to me in the braking zone!" Button bellowed back. "You need to speak to me on the whole straight!"
With two long straights, one of which makes up the entirety of the third sector, there is plenty of time for race engineers to advise their drivers at Interlagos without causing distraction.
And after his rant in Japan, where Button told Sky Sports' Mike Wise how the team had forgotten to tell him to switch to a particular engine setting in qualifying, this was more evidence of McLaren's inability to even get the basics right, almost three years to the day since their last grand prix win.
Fortunately, though, Button had returned to his normal, cheery self by the end of the race, where he even found himself catching Sauber's Felipe Nasr for 14th place.
According to the official F1 website, Button told the team: "I tell you what, 15th—I actually enjoyed that. There was at least some racing. I mean, I didn't know what I was going to do when I got to Nasr, but it was fun trying to chase him."
Kimi Raikkonen Complains About Traffic, Ferrari Request
For the first time since September's Japanese GP, Kimi Raikkonen managed to finish a race without crashing into anything.
That was one of the few positives to take from yet another weekend when the 2007 world champion was no match for Sebastian Vettel, his Ferrari team-mate, although Raikkonen did provide one of the more amusing moments of the Brazilian GP.
And the Finnish driver again showed his frustration at Interlagos, above, claiming that the lapped Manor cars of Alexander Rossi and Will Stevens were not respecting the blue flags.
Raikkonen's rant about the Manors came little more than 48 hours after the Ferrari pit wall had to persuade him to follow their practice program following his spin into the gravel at Turn 4 in FP1.
According to the official F1 website, race engineer Dave Greenwood told his driver, "We'd still like to do a rubber lay if possible," only for Raikkonen to reply: "I don't see a point to even travelling around with the car full of sand and the tyres completely ruined."
"OK Kimi. We would like you to do it," Greenwood responded, trying to talk him round. "If you think it's dangerous, then we won't; but if you could, we would be happy."
It is unclear whether Raikkonen did eventually follow Ferrari request, yet his weekend-long complaints only further cement his status as F1's grumpy old man.