Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2019

Hamilton: Extra pit stop felt like a “big gamble”

2019 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton thought making a second pit stop was a “big gamble” when Mercedes told him of their planned strategy change during the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver was chasing race leader Max Verstappen when the team decided to pit him for a fresh set of medium tyres. This meant falling around 20 seconds behind Verstappen, and Hamilton said their pre-race discussion had ruled out the possibility of making two stops.

“This morning we talked about the strategy and they said two stop was not going to happen. When we called to do a two stop, I was like ‘Jeez, I don’t know how this is going to work’.”

Hamilton felt he had the pace to attack Verstappen without making an extra pit stop. “A gamble’s always a good thing, it felt like a big gamble for us but at the time I felt like I had the pace on Max,” he said.

“I don’t know if he was backing off or he was just controlling the pace but I felt like OK, I’m going to have a few attempts at trying to pass him but at some stage the tyres are going to go off, so I don’t know how many attempts that will be.”

After his second pit stop the team quickly revised its prediction of how quickly Hamilton would catch Verstappen. “They said I was going to catch him with nine laps to go and then that changed super-quickly and went to last lap.

“So after that I had to put all doubt and all question marks out of my mind and go for the best laps I could do every single lap and consistency and not drop any time whatsoever. I had one of the most consistent period of laps that I’d had.”

Verstappen’s pace dropped suddenly on lap 63 as his tyres began to go off, which helped Hamilton catch and pass him.

“I don’t know if he had traffic or mistakes or whatever but the gap started to chop down quite quickly,” said Hamilton. “I think with four or five laps to go I had him four seconds ahead and I could see him in my sights, so maybe he’s struggling with his tyres.

“After that I was like ‘OK, we’ve got a serious race on here’. It felt like the steepest wall to climb when you come out that far behind but the team had relaxed faith that we would do it and I’m grateful for their hard work and the decision.”

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33 comments on “Hamilton: Extra pit stop felt like a “big gamble””

  1. But a gamble that eventually paid off to the maximum extent.

    1. It was no gamble, it was a free try, nobody behind to worry about.

  2. It was a major gamble and it’s easy to see why Hamilton thought it was a bit questionable.

    After all, prior to the stop, he was on Verstappen’s tail and continually closing in and putting pressure on. Everytime they hit traffic, he potetially could have had a punt at an overtake. Granted, his tyres had some age on them, but so did Verstappen’s, so his real task was to avoid taking more out of them by attacking than Verstappen was by defending.

    And as we’d seen, some of the pitstops had been slow -Vettel having suffered that one that left him standing for four- so there was a risk there that a problem could delay him enough on the stop that the gap would be too big to reel in.

    However, and in hindsight, the decision to pit was inspired. Hamilton was on fresh, faster tyres, with a huge chunk of clear air ahead of him. Red Bull had only a tiny window to respond and they missed it, though I think with softs on he could have attacked Hamilton had they pitted within five laps.

    Even so, I wasn’t expecting Hamilton to actually manage it. Twenty seconds in twenty laps was a heck of an ask and when it seemed to hold at fifteen seconds as he got through traffic I thought that was it, but then like a glacier coming down the mountain he was inexorably, unstoppably closing down the gap.

    And he caught him with six laps to go? So, twenty seconds in fourteen laps? I could not have expected that.

    What I was half expecting though? When Verstappen pitted for the softs to get the fastest lap, I expected Hamilton to do a Silverstone again and plop in the fastest lap on the last go around on the harder tyre than Verstappen set his. But unlike bottas who had pimped his FLAP in then settled back for the last couple of laps, Verstappen built it up to set it on the last lap himself.

    Could Verstappen have done the same had positions been reversed? I don’t know, there’s a lot of factors to consider, how kind the cars are to their tyres etc. I think he’d have given it a real good go though.

    1. I think 20 qualifying laps put put paid to Lewis’ attempt to keep the fastest lap. But yeah I was thinking he might try to keep the record. The final stick poked at RB.

      But it was a hell of a chase down. Like you said, it was a second a lap for twenty laps required and five laps later it was still 20 seconds.

      I just wish Lewis would shut up sometimes.

      1. I just wish Lewis would shut up sometimes.

        You DO know that these are almost all replies to interview questions, right? Being accessible and open to the media is a GOOD thing, not a bad thing. Saying otherwise is, frankly, idiotic.

      2. I just wish Lewis would shut up sometimes

        Why? He is constantly asked questions in interviews, should he just not answer them? Nothing he said above is controversial, pretty much exactly what the people I watched the GP with thought.

      3. I just wish Lewis would shut up sometimes.

        So Lewis how was the race today?
        Lewis sits there silently
        What were your thoughts on the second pitstop?
        Lewis sits there silently
        81 wins puts you just 10 from Schumachers all time record, does that come into your mind at all during the races?
        Lewis sits there silently

        InvisibleKid: I jUsT WisH HamIltoN wOuld AnSWeR qUEstioNs iN iNTerViewS iNstEaD oF BEinG So IgnoRaNt

        1. Martin ‘Lewis sits there silently’. Not telling Hamilton to shut up but ya know drivers need to drive, they shouldn’t need coaching or constant reassuring.

          1. Just so you know, all the drivers are constantly communicating with their race engineers. Except that it’s mainly Hamilton’s chatter that is broadcast, because, y’know, he’s usually in the lead, he’s darn close to his 6th WDC, and very good at what he does.

          2. @greenflag

            Just so you know, all the drivers are constantly communicating with their race engineers.

            Oh really didn’t know that lol.
            No I meant what I said to much coaching.

            he’s darn close to his 6th WDC, and very good at what he does.

            Yes he is and he doesn’t need help to drive his car none of them should.

    2. Similar situation at the 2012 Hungarian GP Kimi on new tires and lewis on worn tires and Lewis defender for more than 10 laps

    3. youre right…when the gap stayed at 15 seconds,i thought lewis had no chance.

    4. Pat (@patrick1972)
      5th August 2019, 11:24

      Hamilton had a go at Verstappen and wasn’t able to make it stick. He came on the radio with the “what more can I do?”. I think Mercedes took a very calculated risk, with nothing to loose and everything to gain.

      Lewis is one of the few drivers on the grid who can close a 20 second gap in 16 laps. And he deserves all the credits for winning this race.

    5. no way would hamilton have stopped had max stopped first , he had enough tyres left to cruise home

  3. Canada 2012… Lewis you felt the extra stop was gamble when you had to chase down Alonso and Vettel who were 20 seconds ahead

  4. KeepRacingInMI
    5th August 2019, 8:53

    All hail our Lord and Savior, St. Louis.

  5. Maybe it felt like a gamble, but I don’t think it really was. Firstly Lewis was already much quicker on the hard tyres. So on mediums the pace advantage would be brutal. They already knew the mediums would last to the end because they started on them and could do the laps with full tanks.

    Secondly Max could never prevent or respond to it without losing his position. If Max would’ve gone into the pit Lewis could stay out and drive a better pace on the hard than Max could on them because he was so much quicker. No way Max would be able to close a 20 second gap even on new mediums. And if Max pitted behind Lewis he would’ve come out behind him in a slower car.

    And finally Max obvisiously couldn’t keep his pace up without destroying his tyres. Normally they do a lot of managing and they do it all, because there is no gap tot nr 3 that allowes a free pit stop. Now there was this gap so Mercedes did the right thing and created a situation with a massive overspeed for Lewis.

    It was a great game of chess where the faster Lewis at first stayed within striking distance, then used his fresher medium tyres to attack Max and in the end created and used the pace advantage knowing 15 – 20 lap old Mediums would be way quicker than 40 -45 laps old hard tyres

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      5th August 2019, 12:05

      @anunaki in hindsight, it didn’t look like a gamble but it’d be akin to starting a 60 lap race down 65 seconds on Max and making that up. Lewis barely won starting right behind Max.

      21 seconds is a really tall order to ask anyone to make up at the end of the race and Lewis must have known exactly how far back he was after the pit stop.

      Most drivers can’t win starting from pit lane with a vastly superior race setup and all they need to do is pass all the back markers and then beat the front runners and sister car. Actually I still can’t believe the strategy call on Lewis when he could have won the race from pit lane a few years ago.

      Some of the things that Lewis does defy belief.

      1. Well, we (the people I watch F1 with and I) said it right away: Max will be a sitting duck on the hard tyre. To us it was obvisous

        I’m not talking about Lewis starting from the pits and having to overtake the complete field

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          5th August 2019, 14:46

          @anunaki 21 seconds in 20 laps was obvious? That was about as tall order as you can ask in F1.

          1. Not at all. Easily doable with the best car and the second best car having tyres that were completely useless with laps to go!

            If anything the shock would have been if the Merc didn’t catch Max!

          2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            5th August 2019, 21:54

            Easily doable with the best car and the second best car having tyres that were completely useless with laps to go!

            Wow, easily doable? That’s hilarious:-) Perhaps for 4 drivers in the world…

  6. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    5th August 2019, 11:52

    I don’t think a single person in the paddock thought that it was possible to make up 21 seconds in 20 lap.

    1. Lol, turn it up. And to answer seriously, the Merc strategy team at the bare minimum?

  7. There was nothing to lose and everything to gain. No brainer. And it was evident to many at the time.

    1. @ivan-vinitskyy exactly nothing to lose. Proves the case for better second drivers and ferrari being competitive.

  8. Fortunately, Vowles saw it for what it was, namely a free pit stop that would at worst hold P2, but more than likely gain P1.

  9. The Lewis Hamilton show

  10. It looked like a gamble all be it a completely free one at that given there was nothing to lose and everything to gain however the merc pitwall had a pretty big clue that they were making the right call.

    45 seconds down the road the exact scenario they hoped would play out between hamilton and verstappen was playing out between vettel and leclerc.

    Vettel came out 21 seconds behind leclerc on tyres 13 laps newer and initially only make small gains as leclerc responded to the pit stop but after about 10 laps starting gaining bigger chunks of time as leclercs tyres started to fade.

    Hamilton would have 25 lap newer tyres and verstappen would almost certainly respond to the pitstop(he did, setting green sectors and personal best laps) Hamilton only made small gains initially then much bigger gains as the laps ticked down and Max’s tyres died

    Exactly as Merc had hoped and more importantly had been able to watch unfold down the road.

  11. It’s kind of like late cautions in NASCAR races, it’s never an easy call on whether the leader pits or not because the rest of the field will just do the opposite of what the leader does. They have nothing to loose. Redbull doesn’t know exactly what pace the tires will maintain, as it played out further in the race, the risk free stop from Hamilton became more apparent. Redbull couldn’t control it with certainty no matter what.

  12. There’s an awful lot of what-if-ing going on regarding Mercs strategy call. Who’s to say they didn’t make the race harder for Lewis by making a second stop. Lewis had closed to within DRS range when he made his second stop. He very well may have passed Max anyway in the next couple laps or simply hounded him until later in the race knowing his tryres were six laps newer. Ultimately this race reinforces that it’s often easier to be the hunter rather than the hunted. We saw the same thing last race in Germany.

  13. The gamble was on exaclty when Verstappen’s tyres would go off.
    Had they remained good a couple of laps longer, Lewis would not have overtaken him. He may have caught him, but not passed.

  14. Had the roles (and positions) been reversed, one would have expected Red Bull to have done the same as Mercedes.
    Once the second place car pitted and scorched the out-lap, there would be no way that the leader, at that point, could pit, get back out and stay in first. They would be second and with both cars on fresh tyres, the deal would be sealed, baring a slip-up.
    Either of these two could have done it. Not sure any others had the car or the chutzpah to pull it off.
    It made for great viewing and more importantly, it scored me added points in The Predictions Championship. Finally, I got something right.

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