Ahead of the French Grand Prix Mercedes announced that Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will swap their chassis, in a pre-planned move aimed at evening out the mileage on the two cars.
With Hamilton suffering performance issues in free practice, the media immediately started speculating that the two chassis were not equal.
Both Hamilton and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said that the chassis had nothing to do with the pace problems, but that didn’t stop the media from continuing on with the “story”.
After qualifying in P2, ahead of Valtteri Bottas, Lewis immediately told interviewer Paul di Resta that he was glad to prove the “myth” wrong. At the post qualifying press conference he further explained what he meant by that.
“I think I heard yesterday that Paul was saying something about the chassis,” the Briton said.
“I think he said there was a press release… I don’t know. And then just creating the question about whether our chassis were the same etc and as you can see, today, I managed to do a great job with the same car, so it’s no different.
“It’s just that we, in general, are struggling with getting everything from the tyres and getting the car in the right window and it’s proving tricky. It’s not a ‘put the car on the track and it works everywhere’.
“It’s a great challenge, we’re all enjoying the challenge and we will continue to keep our heads down,” concluded Hamilton.
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Toto Wolff also further elaborated on the chassis swap, and the “myth” surrounding it.
“Which camp are you? The ones that think Lewis is at a disadvantage or Valtteri is at a disadvantage,” joked the Austrian.
“On the mileage, we have four carryover chassis and probably if you investigate with the other big teams like Ferrari and Red Bull, they should also have carryover chassis rather than producing a new one because a new one would be too expensive.
“So we have carried over four chassis. One [chassis five] had a bit of an oops in Imola. These were all chassis that have won races over the last two years, chassis that now have been utilised by everybody, by both drivers.
“So there is a plan at the beginning of the season, which chassis goes where. If there is one with damage, when can we patch it up, when will it come back in the box as a spare chassis.
“There is no other thinking behind it.”
Wolff went on to explain how there is no chance that there could be any differences between the chassis.
“The chassis is the monocoque. It is a carbon ‘bathtub’ that is stiff, keeps the drivers safe and is the backbone of the car.
“In the modern day and age, when chassis come back to the factory they are laser scanned, they are checked for stiffness and if there is the slightest deviation, the chassis is not being utilised anymore,” concluded Mercedes’ team boss.