Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Singapore, 2019

Mercedes admits it “missed an open goal” with Hamilton’s strategy

2019 Singapore Grand Prix

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Mercedes admitted they missed a clear opportunity to win the Singapore Grand Prix by failing to bring Lewis Hamilton into the pits earlier.

Hamilton was running second when the two drivers immediately behind him, Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen, made their first pit stops. That allowed them to jump in front of Hamilton and deprived him of the chance to use the same tactic to get ahead of race leader Charles Leclerc.

After the race Hamilton said they could have won it “easily” if they had pitted at that point. The team’s trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin admitted they had squandered the chance.

“We missed an open goal today by not taking the undercut on lap 19,” said Shovlin.

“We had talked about it but didn’t really react quickly enough to how fast Charles’ tyres were dropping. We decided to call Valtteri [Bottas] to do the opposite to Verstappen on the lap that mattered.

“Obviously we should have made that call with Lewis, and made it late enough that they would not be able to react. That was our opportunity to win and it’s upsetting when you let something like that slip through your fingers.”

Mercedes brought Bottas in to protect him from the car behind. “We ended up boxing Valtteri first to avoid losing a place to Albon, which was the reason we asked him to maintain a gap, otherwise it would have forced Lewis in.”

Having missed the opportunity to bring Hamilton in early, Mercedes were forced to leave him out later. “With Lewis we tried to stay out to maximise the tyre offset to the leading pack and see if we could get a Safety Car. We had lost the position to Vettel, but we consciously gave up the position to Verstappen to maximise this gamble.

“The sequence of Safety Cars at the end didn’t help our cause but it probably didn’t make much difference.”

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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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32 comments on “Mercedes admits it “missed an open goal” with Hamilton’s strategy”

  1. And they should have boxed during SC number 2 or 3. Worst case is he finishes in fourth anyway after getting through a couple mid fielders and having Bottas let him by. Best case he puts real pressure on Ferrari and Verstappen at the end. After all it was clear that Ferrari mode k2 plus meant they would not be passed on same tires on a restart. Ferraris basically have solid fuel rocket boosters in the back for defending now.

    1. I disagree. The pack was quite bunched up after the first safety car so I believe boxing under 2nd safety car would have had Hamilton come out 12th or worse (haven’t got the gaps to work it out exactly – it’s 27 seconds estimated time loss for a stop). If he even managed to make his way up to 6th behind Albon, which would have been hard work, I doubt his tyres would have much of their advantage left to attack the front runners.

      1. Sorry, I made a rookie mistake here. Time loss under safety car conditions is much less than 27 seconds. But he would still have ended up way down the field after pitting.

        1. Fair point. I don’t have the data yet so my comment was more based on a gut impression of the race situation. But I note that he finished like 6 seconds ahead of Albon even with an SC to repack the field with 10 to go. By the same token, if he had pit after SC 2 he would have had the benefit of that repacking to tee off on any remaining midfield cars that went by on his stop, plus Albon. A Mercedes on fresh reds versus any other car on old hard tires would be easy pickings is my guess. It would be a long shot but racing to preserve p4/5 with that car seemed pathetic. It was also the approach that won for them in Hungary. Yes I’ll be submitting my cv to replace Mr. Shovlin in the morning lol.

          1. @dmw
            Like grat said, the time loss in the pits was estimated between 16 and 17 seconds. If they had pitted him on lap 35, he would’ve come out behind Lando Norris in 7th place.

            By the same token, if he had pit after SC 2 he would have had the benefit of that repacking to tee off on any remaining midfield cars that went by on his stop, plus Albon.

            If he had pitted after SC2, he would’ve been dead last.

            A Mercedes on fresh reds versus any other car on old hard tires would be easy pickings is my guess.

            I’d say your guess is too optimistic by a long shot.
            1. The reds weren’t really capable of sustaining pace for more than 15 laps or so. They would’ve been useful to quickly get past the first few midfielders, but they would’ve been crying for mercy before reaching the serious contenders.
            2. We saw the Ferraris taking ages to overtake such glamourous names as Stroll, Ricciardo, Gasly, and Giovinazzi, on tyres that were 20 laps fresher, despite being in a critical situation with Verstappen closing on them and both Mercedes continuing to lap in clear air. I fail to see how Hamilton would’ve had it easier by going up against a) not 4 slower cars, but 13-14 of them (18 cars still running at the time of SC2) and b) a pack whose final boss isn’t Giovinazzi, but Norris, Albon, Verstappen in that order.

            It was also the approach that won for them in Hungary.

            Erm, with one very crucial difference: When Hamilton made his second pit stop in Hungary, he was … 2nd. I.e. the place he already had before the pit stop. Cars he needed to overtake to avoid having a worse result than before the pit stop: 0.

        2. I think I heard someone say 16 or 17 seconds under the safety car. So your point is still valid.

  2. To be honest, if Ferrari had seen the Merc crew moving, they would have stopped Leclerc instead of Vettel. Now they saw Red Bull moving and stopped Vettel instead to cover Verstappen’s undercut.

    At least Hamilton should have then been able to keep P2. However I doubt he cares that much if he finishes in P2 or in P4. It’s not the win in either position.

  3. Just watching the commentators on UK’s channel 4 F1 program, struggling to explain this farce to its viewers.
    Everyone one knew of the massive undercut advantage and yet ….
    Mercedes conspires to hand Ferrari their first 1 & 2 finish at this circuit.
    Talk about bringing the sport into disrepute.

    1. *facepalm*

    2. Some people are bummed vettel lucked in. some people are so bummed merc made a strategic error that they struggle to put it in words. In general the press are picking one or the other as their headlines. Like pointing out vettel won it’s first race in over a year, or saying BBC style leclerc is fuming. Sounds like a bad weekend in football, sour.

      1. I guess everyone just underestimated the potency of the undercut, or at least knew about it, but weren’t willing to take the bite because of the cars who had started on medium tyres. Vettel decided to take the change and profited massively.

    3. A very boring race with virtually no action in the top seven to boot. Just bad strategy calls by Mercedes and even Ferrari in Leclerc’s case.

  4. Hurray, they admitted mistake…
    The problem is it doesn’t change anything.

    did you do something to your strategists before Germany? No whole-crew changes by chance?

  5. Mercedes seems too busy doing dummy pitstops that they missed this great opportunity.

    1. I think Mercedes are embarassed at how good their car is, either that or their embarassed at how poor their opposition is.

  6. The way they “used” Bottas was embarrassing. Oke, he is second driver but in that stage of the race there was no need to humiliate him like that.

    1. Bottas has already blown his title shot this year when he binned the car when Hamilton was going to score no points. He’s now playing second fiddle and supporting Hamilton to the title. Bottas held up Albon to prevent Hamilton falling behind both so he could get as new tyres as possible. It didn’t work but it was the only play Mercedes had left to win the gp.

      1. Bottas is still able to win the championship, unlikely if he is being ordered not to though.

        1. Mathematically possible it maybe but there is no way that could happen even if he was given every advantage by the team for the remainder of the year. If you can’t keep within 2 race wins of the title leader then you’ve blown it. Hamilton overturned 48 points on Rosberg before his car let him down twice to gift Rosberg his undeserved title, I’m pretty sure Bottas can’t dominate Hamilton to that degree.

        2. So how does that work then? If Bottas had been allowed to go as fast as he wants, they would have just brought in Ham earlier to come out in front of Bottas. Unless you are suggesting that they prioritise Bottas over the team and Hamilton?

    2. Used? What asked him to slow so they could go longer with Hamilton and hopefully have a chance with fresher tyres? So instead of slowing Bottas they should have just bought Hamilton in first as he had priority; and still the order would have been Ham followed by Bottas. So they give up the fresher tyre option so as not to humiliate Bottas?

  7. Yes they may have made a mistake but still brought the cars home safely and bagged a reasonable haul of points.

    From Saturday, it was fairly obvious they were in damage limitation and minimising the risk of a DNF which on that track always exists if you have to pass midfielders under race conditions.

    Putting them earlier may have dropped them behind too many cars. They’ll regroup.

    1. How DARE you?

      How can you possibly sit there and make a perfectly reasonable observation about today’s race?

      Don’t you know you’re supposed to be full of vitriol and hyperbole, and insult their intelligence, sexuality and ancestry? Facts aren’t supposed to matter!

      What kind of an F1 fan do you think you are?


      Wasn’t their best day, but it was far from their worst (I think they’ll have to work hard to beat Germany this year).

      1. Thanks for that. Nearly spat out my coffee :)

        I’m sure there’ll be heaps of “fans” that’ll come up with a conspiracy theory or two to balance it out.

  8. Mercedes are to conservative when it cooked to strategy.
    They rely too much on fixed strategies that’s they often fail to evaluate dynamic opportunities.

  9. Mercedes brought Bottas in to protect him from the car behind. “We ended up boxing Valtteri first to avoid losing a place to Albon, which was the reason we asked him to maintain a gap, otherwise it would have forced Lewis in.”>

    I think this is exactly what happened with Vettel as well, except that Ferrari did not ask Vettel to go slow to maintain a gap for Leclerc, and he likely would not have listened anyway. Verstappen radioed in with no grip and asking if brake bias knob was working because it didn’t seem to make much difference. I’m interested to see the radio transcript of the race because I suspect RB called him in at this point, figuring on undercutting Vettel and Hamilton, and maybe Leclerc. Ferrari probably heard this and called Vettel in to cover him off, which is why Vettel himself said the call was very late and right before he had reached pit in. It worked even better than they might have expected because Vettel came out ahead of Hulk and Max came out behind him. Vettel then did 1.45s compared to Hamilton’s 1.47s, Leclerc wasn’t able to clear a gap behind to Hamilton when he was told to push, and Vettel undercut them both. It made no sense for Merc to leave them both out at that point after seeing Vettel’s pace, but they did and Verstappen undercut Hamilton for good measure, but because of Hulk was unable to clear either Ferrari.

    VERY interested to see the radio transcript after this race, that will reveal how all of this worked. Leclerc might just have to accept that his inability to gap Hamilton and Vettel’s quick outlap were what sealed the deal. If all that is the case, it would have been wrong to swap the Ferraris from the pit wall because Vettel took the opportunity he got and extracted the maximum from it.

    1. Oops, that first paragraph was supposed to be a quote block from the article.

    2. So Mercedes wanted to protect 5th place at the risk of losing second.

  10. The problem is Mercedes aren’t used to playing the gunslinger role because they’ve become accustomed to being the hunted. RBR, and Ferrari to some extent, are accustomed to trying to force a response from the leaders when they’re trailing in a race. Mercedes has grown very conservative in that respect. Knowing that Lewis was never going to make an ontrack pass they should’ve been thinking undercut at the earliest opportunity even if they had no idea how powerful it might be. Had the roles been reversed you can guarantee that RBR would’ve rolled the dice thinking they have nothing to lose.

  11. Let’s face it:

    The only competitor theoretically able to win the COTD over Hamilton is Bottas.

    There are six races remaining and the maximum tally of points is 156, assuming that the winner has also set
    the fastest lap.

    So with 231 points if Bottas were to win the remaining race, he would reach a maximum of 381 points.

    381-296= 85 points.

    So Hamilton would need to gather 86 points in 6 races. An average of 14.33 points per race to beat Bottas.

    Finishing third in every race still beats Bottas bid.

    It is not improbable that Hamilton could DNF in one of the six races. In which case he would have to finish
    second in all of them or win two and finish 3rd in the remaining 3.

    It is foreseeable that Hamilton would finish ahead of Bottas in most races, in which case it doesn’t matter if he wins as long as he does better than Bottas.

    Even if Leclerc or Verstappen were to win the remaining 6 races, they cannot beat Hamilton as he only has to secure
    61 points in six races by finishing fifth in every one, and furth in one of them.

    I really think it is probable that Hamilton has that 6th Championship in hand.

    1. Was meant to reply to this but it put my comment under, as a new comment.

  12. Yes, like last year, the only thing that can put hamilton’s title at risk is an injury ala schumacher 1999 that forces him to lose several or all races, and the same goes for the contructor’s title, even that can likely be salvaged with a competent replacement, ocon? Would make sense considering he’s a mercedes driver and his renault contract starts next year.

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