Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

Mercedes may stop allowing drivers to run different strategies

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In the round-up: Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admits deviating from their past practice of using similar strategies for both drivers risks “favouring somebody unconsciously”.

What they say

Wolff was asked why Lewis Hamilton was allowed to run an alternate strategy to Valtteri Bottas at Silverstone, which helped him to win the race, when Mercedes has previously required its drivers to use similar strategies.

The discussion we had with them in the morning was if you were to put them on the same tyre, on the same strategy, basically turn one or lap one would lock in the result. And we felt that picking up on their suggestion would provide an interesting race.

It still overlapped on many instances: We knew they would be racing each other but then maybe with a different strategy. So that’s what we tried.

I think in hindsight [the] argument has value and I think we need to look at it. Are we actually favouring somebody unconsciously, which we wouldn’t want to do. For sure it’s created more experience and more data for us to judge whether it’s something we want to do in the future.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Comment of the day

Can Gasly regularly operate at the level we saw from him in the last race?

Silverstone will likely be Gasly’s Bahrain 2018. I reckon he is more of a Grosjean (good peak performance, but rarely reaches it) than a Leclerc or Verstappen, who seem to find a groove and stay within it.
Luke S (@Joeypropane)

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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22 comments on “Mercedes may stop allowing drivers to run different strategies”

  1. “same tyre, on the same strategy, basically turn one or lap one would lock in the result.”

    I interpret what he’s saying is basically; multi 21(or12), on lap one? No racing allowed?

    Hard to believe, but not surprised.

    1. @heidenh No, that’s not what Wolff was saying at all. He meant that whoever was ahead after the first lap would stay ahead and win the race. That’s all.

      Allowing the drivers to diverge on strategy made the result less predictable. But given that usually the driver on pole has a higher chance of converting the position to a win, it does mean that allowing different strategies statistically favours the second driver (in Austria, Hamilton) by giving them a better chance of turning the positions round if they can’t get past at the start. I think that’s actually good, but it needs, obviously, to apply to all races, not just when Hamilton is behind Bottas on the grid :)

      But Wolff’s point actually seems more cryptic. He seems to suggest that allowing different strategies leaves the team open to giving different advice or help to their drivers and ‘unconsciously’ favouring one. That may be so, but I don’t know why he or they came to that conclusion – was this an insinuation from Bottas’s side? If so, that would imply distrust of his own engineers. Or are the management overthinking this? All a bit odd.

      1. *Silverstone, not Austria

      2. He seems to suggest that allowing different strategies leaves the team open to giving different advice or help to their drivers and ‘unconsciously’ favouring one.

        @david-br – Yeah, that’s a bit puzzling, re. Silverstone. I wonder if he meant it gives the appearance of favouring a driver. I know a lot of the initial reactions post-Silverstone were that Bottas had been put on the worse strategy.

        1. @phylyp Maybe some suggestion that Bottas and his engineers had been ‘unconsciously’ misled about the best strategy? But the main point was that Hamilton had decided to do whatever Bottas wasn’t doing anyhow – he knew he had better race pace and needed to exploit that. I also think locking into a 3 stop by going MM in the first two stints, when a 1 stop MH was at least ventured as a possibility before the race, was always a mistake. Much better to leave your options open.

      3. I understood that it applied to this race because both drivers requested it. Not that it was because Hamilton was behind on the grid. (Which as we know often changes by the first corner anyway.) Bottas and his team had first pick of strategy (as pole man) and chose the prime strategy. Hamilton went for the two stop alternate strategy. I think what prevented any accusations of team favouritism was that subsequently Hamilton went against his own side of the garage and did his own thing, which then turned out to be the winning strategy. But Bottas did say we (his side of the garage) got it wrong. So there could be grounds for Bottas claiming his side of the garage let him down, or that Vowles gave him a duff strategy. I don’t believe they did as in this case; and as was displayed during practice, Hamilton was just so much better on his tyres than Bottas was, and very few drivers or teams thought a one stop was possible.
        So I think the lesson learnt was that in the event of the prime strategy failing when the drivers are on differing strategies, there could be some grounds for believing one driver is being favoured; even if it is an unconscious favouring. So is it worth the hassle? Why not just give them both the prime strategy? I would imagine one requirement before considering it as an option in the future was that both drivers must request it.

        1. @riptide I was joking about them deciding to allow diverging strategies only when Hamilton is second! Actually I presumed they’d decided that as they would probably have a big advantage at Silverstone, and given the complaints whenever Mercedes dominate, they thought they could relax their own internal rule to add more interest to the race. But I think they should go with this at all races (now). It’s all part of the control teams attempt to exert, extending to limiting competition between their 2 drivers to maximize the team result. Understandable but essentially contrary to actual racing.

  2. For the love of the sport, please Mercedes, just let them do what they like.

    1. Totally agree, I feel that restricting both drivers to the same strategy is actually the reverse of what Mercedes say they are trying to avoid …. let the drivers and their side of the garage decide what strategy they want to use, then win or lose it is down to them.

    2. digitalrurouni
      25th July 2019, 12:50

      This. A thousand times this. Hamilton made the call to take the ‘less optimal’ 2 stop strategy but he was confident in his skills. Bottas had the option to choose that one but he chose the 1 stopper. How is that introducing bias? Only bias got introduced was skills played more of a factor of the drivers to keep the pace high and to keep the tires alive. Case in point – fastest race lap at the last lap of the race on very old tires.

      1. Bottas chose the 1 stopper? 🤔

  3. Agreed.

    The choices the drivers make is what defines them as drivers. Give them the best equipment and then let them succeed or fail according to those choices.

  4. Ayombo Awogboro
    25th July 2019, 5:51

    I can understand why and what toto is trying to say but for me it makes no sense, you pay one of your driver serious amounts of dollars for his skills and abilities to do something out of the extraordinary so automatically you have already favoured one driver. In Mercedes Benz pay department Lewis hammer Hamilton is No1. Bottas doesn’t even get 10% of Lewis hammer Hamilton salary or wages but i can understand why he said that statement in encouragement to bottas to pick up his efforts in trying to improve himself. That mark of a great leader is to always encourage the underdog. I am a Lewis hammer Hamilton fan through and through and i am not bothered about the next driver in this case bottas no disrespect to bottas but all through the years Hamilton all exhale in challenge and competition hence the ridiculous amount of money being paid to him. Ferrari did the same, so as red bull, so as Williams in the day’s long gone but i appreciate his thoughts and thinking.
    Even bottas knows who is number in the pack

    1. +1 👍🏼 Perfect . Couldn’t agree more. The salary says A LOT about where the team feels they need to invest. Actually, better yet , the salary says a lot about “who” they want to invest in.

  5. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    25th July 2019, 7:03

    It always winds me up how other series take a pop at F1 to promote themselves. That lack of integrity shows little professionalism or class, for that reason their series will always remain in Formula One’s shadow. You can promote the merits of your own series without belittling another.

    1. @rdotquestionmark, quite often, it seems to be because taking a pop at F1 is a way for that series to generate cheap headlines and generate a large amount of publicity for relatively little effort.

      I suppose there is something of an irony in that some of the very things that they promote as being strengths of the series are also seen by some as its weaknesses as well. “Unpredictability” is something that can cut both ways – if the result starts being seen as being too random, then it can start to put people off if they start feeling that the series is rewarding random luck over skill. It seems that there is a pretty fine line between people either complaining about “dominance” or complaining “it’s a lottery”, and having too much unpredictability can push people towards the latter if they feel as if driver skill is not being rewarded.

    2. Seems the slower-than-F2 Formula E is perennially grasping at straws to try and compare against F1, like a racing series with little man syndrome.

  6. Are we actually favouring somebody unconsciously


  7. Australian GP revives track change possibility (Autosport)
    “We’ll have a look at the evolution of the design and layout in particular areas to see whether we can tweak it.”

    What a good idea,Perhaps they can fill in that gutter that Daniel hit within the first 300 meters of the Start/Finish line.

  8. Regarding the Autosport-article: Not much that could be done TBH, as 99% of the track is formed out of public roads.

    Regarding the COTD: Too early to jump to definite conclusions, I definitely hope he could keep the form he had last time out for the remainder of the season, but we shall wait and see.

  9. F1oSaurus (@)
    25th July 2019, 20:34

    What utter nonsense from Wolff. They gave Bottas a different strategy many times. Just because Hamilton was much faster on race day and he actually made the poorer strategy work, this is seen as “favoring one driver”? It was clearly because Hamilton set his car up for the race more rather than solely for Q3 like Bottas did. Why not do something about that?

    Why not tell Bottas to also setup for race pace a little. So he doesn’t look like such a dud in the races. Mercedes is just enforcing Bottas’ strategy of working solely on Q3 setup and taking a huge risk of actually being beaten on race day. As long as he stays in front of his team mate he doesn’t care who overtakes them both.

    So then Wolff’s “rule” will force Hamilton to do the same and the team as a whole suffers even more.

    What is it with Wolff that he can’t see that making up these “fight your team mate only with you hands behind your back” rules is what is causing the team to suffer.

    Rosberg abused them by forcing Hamilton off the racing line when he was behind and therefore supposed to yield. Acyually Rosberg did the same as Bottas. Going flat out for Q3 alone. In 2014 he qualified in front of Hamilton reasonably often. But then he’d be blown away in the race just like Bottas now.

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