Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

Hamilton admits Ferrari had better strategy despite win

2019 Russian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says Ferrari had the right strategy for the Russian Grand Prix despite beating them to victory in Sochi.

Both Mercedes drivers started the race on the medium compound tyres while Ferrari favoured the softs. Hamilton said the race showed Ferrari made the right call.

“We knew that we were obviously on a different tyre,” he said. “We put ourselves on a slightly different strategy in that respect and I was hoping that was going to give us an opportunity to dice and fight with them at some stage in the race.”

Hamilton admitted Mercedes underestimated how durable the soft tyre would be. “I think ultimately they were right because the soft tyre was much stronger than we anticipated.

“There was that difference between the compounds so keeping up with the softs with their consistency and their speed was, oh god it was so hard, so I wasn’t expecting that. There was obviously that slight tail-off towards the end where I was able to start closing the gap but it wasn’t massive chunks that I was taking out of them.”

Mercedes’ strategy had been for Hamilton to run a long first stint on the medium tyres, but the Virtual Safety Car period changed that.

“We were planning to extend for like 15-plus laps or something like that, hoping that when we came back out the soft we would have a chance to be able to fight with one of them who was on a different tyre. But obviously the Safety Car and all those things came into it.”

While Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari dropped out, Charles Leclerc fell behind Hamilton in the VSC period and then dropped behind Valtteri Bottas when he made an extra pit stop for soft tyres.

“Valtteri did an exceptional job because it’s not easy keeping the Ferraris behind and Charles has been driving so well,” said Hamilton.

“Ultimately [it’s] just an incredible day for the team considering the challenges that we’ve had. I think this weekend we knew that we had to pull more out of this car and there was more potential there, but we didn’t know where it was.

“I think we pulled ourselves a little bit closer to the Ferraris this weekend and it was just enough to get ahead of them.”

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20 comments on “Hamilton admits Ferrari had better strategy despite win”

  1. Surely, Mercedes got a bit lucky with a Safety car, but Hamilton as always was fighting like a lion.

    1. isaac (@invincibleisaac)
      29th September 2019, 21:54

      @bulgarian – I have to agree with you there. The first part of the race I was keeping an eye on the gap between HAM and the Ferraris and he was constantly within 3 secs of LEC and 7 secs of VET, which looked promising. He was able to capitalise on Ferrari’s reliability and so took the win, but I can’t help but feel we missed the opportunity for a close fight for victory. What do you think would’ve happened without VET’s retirement, and if there was no SC/VSC? I for one think HAM would’ve been on the prowl on the fresher tyres (having gone deeper into the race in the first stint) and think it would’ve been close with him and the Ferrari’s but a similar result to Spa – he passes VET and closes on LEC, but ends up 2nd. He always fights like a lion though.

      1. Looking at LEC’s pace, though, I think Lewis would have taken him in the last few laps. With fresher tyres, and the very powerful slipstream on the straights at Sochi, plus DRS, I think Lewis had the ingredients of a storming victory regardless of Ferrari strategy.
        The VET/LEC dramas just made the inevitable a bit easier for Lewis.

        1. What drama made the inevitable a bit easier for Lewis?! LEC and VET were 1-2, only VET’s DNF changed the positions. We have no real proof VET’s DNF is related to the drama, meaning VET pushed the car too much to create a significant gap in order to have a motive not to give P1 to LEC anymore. Plus, he retired after they both pitted and the team made sure he’ll get back on-track behind LEC.

          Agree that HAM could have been very strong in the final laps and at least the Ferrari in P2 (= VET) seemed to be in danger.

  2. He’s right. If not for the engine failure and russell’s crash it would have been a ferrari 1-2

    1. @Ipsom MGU-K failure actually.

    2. But I’m expecting hamilton to come hounding the ferraris towards the end without vettel’s problem, as in that another SC was sent out after, hamilton would’ve had fresher tyres and would’ve attacked, probably ferraris would’ve defended, depending on vettel’s second stint speed and if he could use leclerc’s drs to defend himself.

    3. There’s every chance Ferrari will modify their load on the car for next race. We now know there’s a price to pay for their unexpected increased performance.

  3. I’m pretty sure as soon as Ferrari did the stupid decision to hold Sebastian they would have lost 1st anyways. Not smart for a team that says team is above everyone.

  4. It actually looked like Hamilton had the gap to pit in front of Vettel already before the VSC and SC came out. So then he would be off hounding Leclerc on slightly worn medium tyres and Hamilton might have been able to overtake him on his fresh softs anyway.

    We’ll never know, but if they had gone with the same strategy as Ferrari they would have certainly ended up P3-P4.

    Starting on medium is also an important part which caused all the panic at Ferrari. Otherwise they could have simply done the same they did in Singapore and fully control the race.

    1. @f1osaurus Vettel was 5 seconds in front of Hamilton when he pitted, so without any SC or VSC, he might have rejoined perhaps 10 seconds adrift of Vettel.

      1. Yet Hamilton was 25 seconds ahead of Leclerc and Vettel ended up behind Leclerc.

  5. Ferrari had the optimal strategy, yes, but Mercedes had the best strategy if they wanted to win the race, not just roll in 3rd and 4th, precisely because by running differently to Ferrari, a SC or VSC at the right time could give them a big race advantage.

    1. Exactly, the fastest strategy is not always the best strategy if it matches the leaders and doesn’t give you much scope to benefit from a safety car. And this was proved today.

  6. Looking at the end of the first stint and the end of the race it seems that Mercedes is still much faster at the end of stints. Like in spa and Monza they would have been desperately fighting off Hamilton in the final laps. Also they would have used Bottas to hold up one Ferrari before his stop so it would have been one on one for the win.

  7. Like some others here, I am not quite sure that Hamilton wouldn’t have been able to win even w/o the (V)SC, at least after Vettel was held out a lap or two longer than his ideal pace. I do get the swapping, and maybe for the whole team over the year it might be the better option, but for this race, I think it detracted Ferrari from going for the best on-track result.

    1. I think it would have entirely depended on the timing of Russell’s crash. If Hamilton was in position to hit the pit lane for fresh tires, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

  8. Isn’t it time that there was some discussion about the way that a safety car can unfairly change the course of a race?
    A safety car is meant to neutralize the race – put it into stasis.
    Instead by sheer luck of the draw teams are able to leap frog their opponents and then some.
    People complain about DRS producing artificial outcomes but this seems to me much worse in terms of overall impact on a race. Also it’s easy to fix – just don’t let people pit under safety car!

    BTW in this instance I think Lewis may have won anyway – the way he seems to get that car working in the back half of a race is awesome.

    Oh and I if I have to read about Mercedes complaining about Ferrari’s incredible, insurmountable pace one more time – I’m gonna spew..

    1. i think you must have started watching F1 only a few years ago (not being aggressive just pointing it out) – before 2010 or thereabouts you couldn’t pit when the safety car first came out (the pit lane only opened when the field had condensed). this was a huge problem too and completely random. not only drivers went close to running out of fuel because they couldn’t pit but in addition you benefited massively if you happened to pit before the safety car came out…

      it’s a problem with no solution, ergo, not a problem!!

      1. Yeah, nah I’ve been watching F1 for over 20 years. I do remember some instances like you have described, although I don’t see how running out of fuel could be a factor these days.
        A safety car of any kind is what teams hope for in terms of fuel use.
        I feel like at least under the virtual safety car a no stop policy would work better than what we currently have. Maybe a full safety car pit stops could be allowed.
        As you say – no perfect solution.. just feel like of all the crap being discussed to make it better for the fans (quali races? reverse grid rubbish?) they should consider fixing things that really make it not enjoyable for a genuine fan – like crazy amounts of grid penalties every race and these contrived victories from pit stops during safety cars.

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