Wolff denies Mercedes pulled ‘phantom’ pitstop

2018 Italian Grand Prix

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Toto Wolff has denied that Mercedes pulled a ‘phantom pitstop’ when Kimi Raikkonen pitted during the Italian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes pit crew appeared to set up to receive one of their cars when Ferrari pitted the race leader at the end of lap 20, forcing Raikkonen to drive around them on his way to his pit stall. Despite preparing for a stop, neither Mercedes would pit until the end of lap 27.

With FIA regulations prohibiting teams from deliberately faking pit stops to deceive rivals, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says the team were only preparing to pit in case Raikkonen stayed out.

“On what you call the ‘phantom pitstop’, it wasn’t phantom,” says Wolff. “We were prepared to do the opposite [to Ferrari]. If Kimi hadn’t pitted, we would have. It’s how we were prepared.”

Having beaten the Ferraris to take victory with a long first stint for both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, Wolff says he is proud of the improvements his team made, both between the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix and between Saturday to Sunday.

“It shows that the racing happens on Sunday,” says Wolff.

“I’m very proud of the work the team have done – all the engine guys and the chassis – from Spa to Monza. We’ve understood the car better. We’ve understood the tyres better. We’ve added some performance and even if yesterday didn’t show it, because we couldn’t qualify on pole, I felt that we’ve done some good work over the last couple of days. And I would’ve also said that if we hadn’t won today.

“Nevertheless yesterday we didn’t have the quickest car, but today we did. We had a reliable car, we had a car that was good with the tyres. There was no blistering on our tyres as there was on the Ferrari. Brilliant execution from both drivers and the team.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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29 comments on “Wolff denies Mercedes pulled ‘phantom’ pitstop”

  1. I think they came out a second time without pitting as well, not that the second time was suspicious as they didn’t gain anything.

    They could have stood more out the way the first time though.

  2. Always deny. Let the pundits decide the truth eh Toto

  3. Of course it was not intentional to push Ferrari in a pit stop..
    The second time again it was just to be sure ;)
    Yeah right.

  4. “With FIA regulations prohibiting teams from deliberately faking pit stops to deceive rivals, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says the team were only preparing to pit in case Raikkonen stayed out.”

    This is not something that anyone can disprove. If this regulation is applied to an “intention to deceive”, it is impossible to impose, anyone found to be in breach can alway claim what Wolff did. The solution here is to prohibit the mechanics from going out unless the car comes into the pits – if the car stays out, the team is penalized.

  5. I thought that it was naughty to keep the crew out in the way of Räikkönen instead of going back to the garage after Hamilton did not pit.

    1. Waaaaa….waaaaa….baby needs a diaper change!

      1. Maybe you should get your parents to look into that then… Deplorable behaviour

    2. If someone asked them about that, I’d bet their answer would be that they only knew Hamilton wasn’t coming in when they saw Kimi come in and Hamilton go on; so, Kimi was at that point almost upon them, and thus, the surest thing to do when in that situation, is to stay where you are so that the driver can see where you are, and where not, while if you start hectic movements to get those tyres, guns etc away, he does not @mike-dee

  6. I’d guess there may have been a “do the opposite of Kimi” radio call before the first, and a look at the sector times before the second non-pitstop. Having the guys standing ready gives a few more seconds to decide, and as the last sector is quite short in Monza, the timings of the second sector come quite late. Question is, what constitutes a “phantom” or “fake” pitstop? Does that only refer to pitstops never planned to be happening, or does it include pitstops where the possibility of it not happening was a likely part of the plan?
    Toto seems to use the first definition; However, by doing that he is opening the door to quite a lot of pit crew standing out in the open pitlane without those people being needed there. The goal of the FiA-regulation against fake-pitstops was to get them out of the pitlane, and thus out of any possible harms way as much as possible. Seems like at some point the FiA will have to clarify what constitutes a fake pitstop in a slightly more precise manner.

    1. The problem with the rule is that like Mercedes did today, it is common for teams to make very late calls and change their minds. It is also common for drivers to change their minds too. F1 is too dynamic to have a rule like this.

      If they do not want put crews in danger then simply ban pitstops altogether…

  7. The question is which of the teams came out first.
    If the Ferrari pit crew came out after that of Mercedes, then there is no cause for any accusations.

    1. Of course.. That is precisely the intention of a bogey pit stop. To trick the other team in a pit stop to avoid the undercut.

  8. Ugh. It’s against the spirit of the rules whether Whiting says it or not. Mercedes knew exactly what they were doing when they took their guys out, and left them there when they knew they weren’t pitting.

    As far as I’m concerned, if your pit crew take come out and take stations, and your car doesn’t come in, it should be an instant penalty. If they want to take chances with this last minute do-what-they-don’t, race out from the garage.

    1. So teams can’t change their minds? It is common for teams to go with opposing strategies and so it is common for a team to get ready to pit a car and then suddenly change when the other car comes in. It is also common for a team to get ready to pit a car and then the driver changes his mind and wants to carry on or they are going to follow whatever the car in front does so if it does not pit as expected then the team tells the driver to stay out. Also it is not uncommon for a team to plan a pit stop to change to wets/drys and then change their mind as they see a time for another car come up on their screens that suggests they need to stay on the current tyres. Basically what you are saying is that if they plan to pit and then realise it is the wrong call then they are not allowed to change their minds and have to knowingly stick to a strategy that will harm them!

    2. Think that through …. remove an element of strategy (and “part of the game”) and open up potential for ridiculous penalties and/or confusion, which then The Internet will rightly call out as “more pointless penalties killing racing”.

      It would be analogous to banning driver instructions – that whole ridiculous sequence (was in Baku?) when the pit crew couldn’t tell Lewis which buttons to fix his car. In that case, a rule was laid down in the name of improving racing and making things more clear – and it actually made things more confused and just silly.

      Awarding a penalty because a driver makes a call to stay out, or a team change their mind (weather changes; competitive changes; incident on track, etc) would be ridiculous….

      Team orders, drive instructions, pitlane kidology – all things that people might have differing opinions on whether right or wrong, but all common in that trying to ban them brings unintended consequences that will just make the show worse.

  9. Now to be known as a trick pit-stop?

  10. Wow penalty for not pitting!!! Eyes rolling…

    1. That’s not the point. Either you discard or clarify the rule in rules book or enforce it.

      1. It has likely been enforced. If there were radio comms to suggest that hamilton was to stay out if kimi came in but to come in if kimi stayed out (and I think there was such a message) then Merc were not trying to trick anyone and it was a legitimate exercise.

  11. They have been doing this for races. I am really surprised no other teams complained yet.

  12. And what happens if driver decides to do one more lap a la Alonso? Dumb rule. Just say “don’t hang around in the pits”

  13. Nevertheless yesterday we didn’t have the quickest car, but today we did. We had a reliable car, we had a car that was good with the tyres. There was no blistering on our tyres as there was on the Ferrari. Brilliant execution from both drivers and the team

    I wish Hamilton would be that honest, too. He was simply incredible in the car yesterday, no question. But it wouldn’t hurt to admit the Mercedes on Sunday had at least equal pace. His narrative had to be, though, that he made it happen besides being in the slower car, which at least on Sunday just was not true.

  14. @PedroAndrade is correct, it’s not really possible to “do” someone for faking pitstops as you could never prove it was an intentional deception, teams would always argue that that they intended to pit if the conditions were correct. Fake pitstops happen, it’s all part of strategy.

    However, I do think it’s bad form for a team (in this case Mercedes) to block a rival car and impact their pit stop time. It’s certainly not the worse thing a team could do, but it doesn’t seem like fair play.

  15. I get why they did it. But I don’t like tricks in F1. Sure it worked but I would have liked it to be different. Very good strategy by the Merc though.

  16. For a real pitstop they go out with tyre warmers off. For the iffy non stops they kept the warmers on.

  17. Hamilton wins when all the Ferrari fans thought they were going to have a Ferrari win at Monza and now it’s suddenly a big deal and we should have instant penalties?

    rolls eyes

    Mexico 2017:

    During Lap 18 Raikkonen was told to pit, a very early and aggressive move, then told to do the opposite of what Perez did.

    Where was all the fury when Ferrari did the same thing last year?

  18. What happened to the Unsafe Ferrari release on the pitlane?

  19. mercedes fighting dirty just show how deseperate they become, pulling every trick they can and wingmaning all the way

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