Mercedes have offered an explanation for Lewis Hamilton 's blunt radio message towards the end of the Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton finished the race fourth, just outside the podium places while team-mate George Russell managed to snatch third. With the other Mercedes ahead and Max Verstappen out of the race with another mechanical issue, he might have been frustrated to miss out on the chance of another top-three finish.
It certainly seemed he was annoyed as he spoke to his race engineer towards the end of the race. As it became clear he would be pipped to the podium by Russell, he said: "You guys put me in a really difficult position."
With no immediate explanation of why he was so irked, the general assumption was that his frustration was borne out of losing track position to his fellow Mercedes racer due to the timing of pit stops. Russell had benefitted from a safety car as he switched his tyres while losing less time.
The team has moved to clarify that Hamilton's annoyance came across because he was battling to make sure his engine did not overheat. "That was all about engine cooling and keeping the power unit cool during the course of the race," explained motorsport strategy director James Vowles.
"We push everything to the limit, as you would imagine, and one of those is engine cooling, and you do that by closing up the bodywork or changing the louvre design at the back of the car. That decision is made on Saturday, but obviously we are racing on Sunday, 24 hours later.
"In this particular circumstance, the ambient [temperature] was one, maybe two degrees warmer than we had expected. As a result of that, ourselves – and not just ourselves, you would have heard it from teams up and down the grid – were right on the limit of what the engine and the PU can take in terms of cooling requirements."
Vowles' explanation fits in with what Hamilton had said after the race when he too was asked about the terse radio message. The seven-time world champion told reporters in Melbourne: "I couldn't fight for third because the engine was overheating. So I had to back off, so just had to sit behind."
To finish third and fourth was another strong result for a Mercedes team struggling to compete for pace with Red Bull and Ferrari in these early stages of the season. They took advantage of retirements from Verstappen and Carlos Sainz to secure what Hamilton described as "a great result for us as a team".
"This weekend we've had so many difficult moments with the car," he added. "So to get ourselves fifth and sixth in qualifying, to progress like we have and to have the reliability, and we definitely didn't expect to have a third, fourth. And George did a great job today. We've bagged as many points as we could as a team and that's great."
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