Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2019

Mercedes considered leaving Hamilton out and telling him to let Bottas past

2019 Japanese Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said it was a “50-50 call” whether to bring Lewis Hamilton in for a second pit stop in the Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton took the lead of the race after team mate Valtteri Bottas made a second pit stop. Although the rules did not require Hamilton to pit again, Mercedes chose to bring him in, which dropped him behind Bottas and Sebastian Vettel, who also pitted twice.

Wolff confirmed the team was giving serious thought to leaving Hamilton out, but would not have allowed him to use a one-stop strategy to beat Bottas.

“It was tricky,” said Wolff. “Lots of tricky calls this race.

“Obviously Valtteri not blinking an eyelid [at the start] when Seb stalled and getting into the lead, that was the decisive moment of the race. Lewis in third was always a little bit between a rock and a hard place.

“Once you’re in the lead you need to protect your position. If you’re third you can take more risks and more chances. What we did is the we protected the lead with Valtteri and we took the pace out of his race once Sebastian pitted for his second stop.

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“So it was always clear it would go towards Valtteri. We are not playing team mates against each other with race strategy. But then you can say we could assured second place.

“I think that pitting Lewis again at the end was a 50-50 call. We could have left him out and tried to ask the drivers change position to give to give the result back and maybe protected against Sebastian.

“But on the other side maybe not protected against Sebastian. So pitting and giving him a new set of tyres was the decision that was being taken and at that stage it felt like the right decision.”

Wolff explained the team’s decision to pit Hamilton again was partly motivated by the fact the tyres were dropping off very quickly at the end of a stint.

“Both tyres dropped suddenly. You could see that they were they were pretty robust and then from one lap to the other the drivers felt that there was no grip anymore.

“Both of the drivers said it and when changed Lewis for the second part he also said, his feedback was that the tyre was losing grip at that stage and would it have been very difficult just to defend against Sebastian. It was never a question with Valtteri because we knew what we were going to do anyway.”

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52 comments on “Mercedes considered leaving Hamilton out and telling him to let Bottas past”

  1. I don’t exactly buy it… in my view they just prioritized 6th WCC, totally disregarding driver’s battle.

    I don’t blame them of course! They just did history.

    1. @dallein I’m not sure how that is contradictory to what Toto said. Essentially, Mercedes felt they had a better chance of getting a 1-2 with Hamilton pitting again, than if he had stayed out.

      1. Mm, no, the way I heard it it was “The result gave us 6th WCC, we didn’t care if we took 1-2, so from lap 1 decided Bottas wins and we play with Lewis’ strategy.”
        Position is still king.
        Risk of leaving Lewis on track and potentially losing 2nd place (personally I think he would have made it to the end in P1) to Vettel due to degradation was much lower than suggested”50-50″.

    2. F1oSaurus (@)
      13th October 2019, 19:15

      @dallein This is how Mercedes operates. The driver in the lead gets all the attention and the driver behind is left with the scraps.

      They don’t try to ruin the #2 driver’s race, but it happens because of slightly poorer strategy.

      I doubt Hamilton would have made it till the end on those mediums. Not in front of Vettel at least. In Monaco he got away with driving on tyres that wouldn’t last the distance, but in Suzuka he would have easily been passed.

      1. And what would be the difference if they had? Leave him out, he has a chance to win, or come in second. Pit him, and he *might* be able to manage second.

        Leaving him out would have been a better bet.

        1. Seb would have passed him. With ease.

    3. Why did they need WCC right away there was no way any team would take it.

      This is not final race of the year with title on the line.

      They wanted to avoid teammate battling and team orders, also they fumbled strategy a bit. That is more likely. Maybe if they sacrificed Bottas sure, but sacrificing Hamilton, I fail to see how that was done intentionally.

  2. The Mercedes were flying today at the track. I think they should have kept Lewis out if they wanted the 1-2. Just ask Lewis to let Valterri by guys.

    1. @krichelle I agree, and hope you had a Great day at the track.

  3. Translating:
    “We could have an interesting driver battle for the first place, with videos shared all trough the internet showing the team colors and sponsors, we decided to cancel that because we don’t like unpredictable things and prefer to have the cars just cruising till the end”

    1. Or….They want to win and don’t want to risk their drivers colliding with each other. Nah… surely not.

    2. Um yeah, nothing wrong with that especially to clinch historic 6th constructors title.

      They’re not Ferrari, who currently do not know whether their drivers can follow basic instructions and strategy week in and week out.

    3. wouldn’t have been much of a contest, with Bottas on the much better tires.

  4. I don’t understand the problem people are having with strategies. The drivers race for the team. Merc just won the WCC and rightly so, the WDC is between their own drivers now, how is this a loss? Top work by Merc. They don’t always have the best strategy for each driver but you have to say that their strategies, overall work out for the benefit of the team, unlike some other teams that shall remain nameless.
    I’m not a fan(atic) of them or either drivers but credit where it’s due. Top work and congratulations.

  5. Well, I suppose that is understandable, but still, a bit disappointed. I would have liked them to take the riskier strategy (though, maybe also the risk that Hamilton wouldn’t play ball? then again, if he knew that his tyres were going, he would have known he couldn’t defend from Bottas, but, might he still hope an argument to let the faster Bottas defend from Vettel to prevail?), but, I guess I am not a 6 consequently WCC and WDC team member, so what do I know :)

  6. The point is that Hamilton lost a lot of time running longer before his first stop so I assumed he was one stopping and expected the team to let Bottas past.

    1. I think the plan was to one-stop him, initially, but his tires gave away too soon (lap 24 would have been ideal), so the one-stop became pretty impossible, as proved to be the case.

  7. I didn’t watch the race
    Do you guys think Hamilton would have won it if he didn’t pit?

    I’m thinking it’s a yes because of the subconscious favoritism Mercedes has showed throughout the season (whenever 2 different strategies are used bottas always gets the worst)

    1. That sounds about right. When they employ two different strategies the guy further up the grid gets the pick. And invariably Ham is further up the grid.

      1. This time bottas was up ahead, in fact most of the times they try different strategies is when bottas is ahead


    2. From what I’ve seen, yes I think he could win. But Bottas might also passed him. It’s 50:50 chance to win, but almost guaranteed he’ll stay ahead of Vettel making a Mercedes 1-2. I think the team just more willing to give Bottas win and risk 1-2 instead of having unharmonious relationship next year. Hamilton is much easier to please today even if he finished 3rd since he will win WDC anyway and I’m sure he’s smart enough to know having Bottas still willing to cooperate next year is better especially with rising threat of Ferrari.

      As for favoritism, I disagree. At midpoint of the race I genuinely think 1 stop is the wrong strategy. The degradation is so big that he losing lot of time to Bottas and Vettel after their pit stop. It’s just he somehow preserve the medium much better and have healthy gap to Bottas and Vettel and only then it appear he can win the race with 1 stop.

      1. I think Seb would have had him easily.

    3. F1oSaurus (@)
      13th October 2019, 19:18

      Ipsom, Bottas also gets the best strategy when he’s in the lead. Just like today.

      It’s just so that for Bottas to beat Hamilton in Q3 he often needs to prioritize his setup too much for Q3. Which means his race pace is horrible and then Hamilton can make the slightly worse strategy work better than Bottas on the prime strategy

      1. @f1osaurus
        Did he truly get the best strategy? That’s what I’m skeptical about. Was a one stopper with mediums faster? One stop with hards? Those were given to Lewis and he would have won the race. See the quote in the comment by Neil below

        That does make sense, but there are moments (however rare) when bottas was ahead purely on merit. Like this race

        1. Could the team have relied on Bottas to ensure a single stop strategy worked for him?

      2. Bottas didn’t get the best strategy, that is why he was on the verge of losing if Hamilton had made a one-stop work. Bottas served the team by covering Vettel – it would have been better for him to stay out as long as possible…

  8. I really don’t get this

    Wolff confirmed the team was giving serious thought to leaving Hamilton out, but would not have allowed him to use a one-stop strategy to beat Bottas.

    But they’ll use strategy of leaving Lewis out longer ?

    1. Lewis was supposed to go to lap 24 for a one-stop. He didn’t manage (probably bad communication between driver and team) so the strategy became a risk.
      Since Vallteri obeyed the team to secure the win, and had deserved the win up to that point, the team wouldn’t give it to Lewis just because of the strategy – that’s the difference.

  9. Mercedes did this as they thought Hamilton would fight Bottas and there could be a collision. It was a no-brainer otherwise to just leave Hamilton out, worst case scenario is his tyres didn’t last and he had to pit or got overtaken, 3rd place was the worst case scenario. If he’d stayed out a win was possible and 2nd place much more than 50/50.

    Mercedes cannot overtake Ferrari at the moment so pitting Hamilton nailed on 3rd place pretty much.

    1. I was honestly surprised hamilton couldn’t overtake vettel, he wasn’t very far behind after pitting and he had the tyre advantage ofc, was closing in very fast and mercedes always looked best in race pace here (but leclerc wasn’t in front for a proper comparison) and I was already surprised he didn’t overtake vettel as soon as he caught him, let alone till the end of the race.

      1. You forgot the part where the Ferrari is a very fast racing car.

        1. still surprising. the difference was about 1.5 to 2 seconds a lap, at that point. That is normally enough. We got to give some credit to Sebastian, no?

          1. Indeed, never thought he could defend with such a differential, have got to say vettel is driving better these last 3 races, although there’s still a few mistakes around, but if you go back to a race like canada, he still drove well despite a mistake, unlike for example monza or silverstone or bahrain.

  10. Explains the radio silence after Hamilton asked, ‘what do I need to do to win this race?’ Wolff is actually saying that after the start, Bottas had won the race, because whatever strategies they used and how they went, they’d try to ensure Bottas won. Dropping Hamilton behind Vettel was their safest option to ensure that. TBH that feels like they didn’t show much loyalty to the driver who’s actually going to win them 5 WDCs and who has stacked up most of the points for their WCCs. It’s subtle but I don’t think Hamilton liked that decision and if he walks away from Mercedes, this will probably be one of the incidents persuading him.

    1. I think hamilton would be shooting himself in the foot leaving mercedes, and it would’ve been a not deserved win at all, so good they pitted him. Simply put, neither of the 2 mercedes drivers needed a 2nd stop.

      1. @esploratore Bottas had a great start and first stint, pulling ahead of Vettel after he’d got past. That’s undeniable. My point is that Mercedes just messed around with Hamilton this race without really telling him it was a waste of time him trying to win. They kept him out far too long for a 2 stop, meaning he lost a lot of time to both Bottas and Vettel. As soon as he came back on track after pitting, that was Hamilton’s complaint, ‘why am I so far behind?’ The strategy made no sense if their aim was a 1-2. Sticking to a one stop would have worked better. But the team deliberately made his race non-optimal to ensure Bottas won. I’m not saying he’ll leave because of this, obviously not. But if he’s tempted to leave for another team or even leave F1, this kind of Mercedes decision will make it easier.

        1. Listen to this radio chat between HAM and the team. There’s no explanation or apology from them. They could have put him on to hard tyres at that point, given they’d caused him to drop from 6 sec behind Bottas to 20 sec (!) by keeping him out. As he said, Mercedes just put him out of the race. And they weren’t bothered, that’s clear by all the team comments during and after the race. Hamilton nowadays doesn’t stress out much with this kind of stuff, he has the wins and records stacked up to be able to asorb this kind of result and move on. But still, it was the team weirdly trampling all over his race. I don’t get it.

          1. David (@billyboltaction)
            13th October 2019, 13:32

            I just posted something similar replying to your previous message. I agree with you. Merc could have given us a more interesting race and offered Hamilton the alt strategy.

          2. The immediate moment always matters in sport, but I suppose Bottas is owed a result so I suppose we maybe have to consider bigger picture…..

        2. David (@billyboltaction)
          13th October 2019, 13:29

          Back when it used to be Hamilton and Rosberg and they had a clear advantage the other driver was offered an alt strategy.
          I’m surprised it wasn’t allowed today as well. Hamilton should have asked for the hard tyre at his stop and then they should have told Bottas Hamilton was on a one stop that he was racing his teammate for the win. Once Bottas stopped for the second time it would be new Medium against used hard for the win and a one two for Merc with Bottas chasing down Hamilton. Good racing for fans and a more interesting race. They can trust Hamilton and Bottas to race clean. Most people thought the two stop was the better strategy so Hamilton would have had more work to do to make the one stop work. Either driver would have deserved the victory based on how it played out.

          1. @billyboltaction Exactly, even on the mediums rather than hard tyres, I was expecting Hamilton to hold on for the win or drop to second at most. Bottas didn’t make much progress during the first laps on the fresh tyres because of backmarkers, staying around 9 sec behind HAM. After clearing them he was making up time, but it was touch and go if he’d have the laps and if his tyres would be good enough to get him past Hamilton by the time he’d caught him. So it would have been a race for 1-2. But over and above that, dropping Hamilton behind the Ferrari was always going to ask him a lot to recapture 2nd at Suzuka, so it didn’t make much sense in terms of the team maximizing points either.

          2. F1oSaurus (@)
            13th October 2019, 19:20

            @billyboltaction Mercedes has actually come out after Silverstone that they do not want to use alt strategies anymore. it’s dumb, but that’s what they said.

            They are so afraid of seeming to favor Hamilton that they will actually spite their own race result by holding Hamilton back.

  11. Mercedes missed an opportunity today for a 1, 2 finish. Why, I don’t know, but they seemed to hard work to avoid it and Hamilton nearly upset the plan by getting so close to Vettel and very nearly getting
    past him for second.

    What’s up doc?

  12. Actually, as the likelihood of one of Mercedes’ drivers winning the WDC title this year is practically 100%, applying team orders to favour Hamilton even at such a comfortable lead versus Bottas would be so cheap. I think it’d be a bit poor sportsmanship at such a comfortable margin.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      13th October 2019, 19:23

      How is it a favor to Hamilton if he gets the second best strategy? Bottas made his choice for the best strategy and then why should Hamilton be so purposefully disadvantaged? Their strategy for Hamilton made no sense whatsoever.

      1. Yes, sorry, you are right. I had a stressful day, and commented without too much intel.
        Then Merc pulled off a so called ‘Ferrari strat’ and made Hamilton suffer :(
        This ‘Ferrari strat’ was a so cool coining by Verstappen and Norris while they drove at an endurance simracing event :D

        Lando: Rain on the radar.
        Max: I think we need to box for Inters.
        Lando: “Ahaha that’s a Ferrari strat. Undercut on the inters.”

        As i remember some ingame spotter warned them that rain may come in 15 minutes, and they immediately came up with this :D

  13. Fantastic way to reward the driver who’s banked the vast majority of your WCC points including huge damage control at the races where Red Bull and Ferarri were the quicker car.

    After the last grand prix and Ferrari’s pre planned racing lines it’s clear as day that the teams are meddling too much now.

    Bottas did deserve this win, he was quicker all weekend but to trade a 1-2 for a 1-3 is the beginning of the end of this team imho.

    Hamilton WDC and Ferrari WCC 2020, nice symmetry with his first championship to cap off his final year at Mercedes I think. Whether he jumps or Merc pull out it does feel like this chapter is coming to an end.

    1. @RB13 You’ve captured what I felt, it seemed like the end of something.

      1. @david-br the team has been ruthlessly aggressive in banking points and leaving no stone unturned, like clockwork. To voluntarily relinquish a 1-2 beggers belief.

    2. comments like this make no sense to me. why would Hamilton leave Mercedes when he’s kicking everyone’s a$$? he’ll probably still win the Championship this year…

    3. The thing people are forgetting is that EVEN BOTTAS could’ve only pitted once if only mercedes fitted the right tyres on his car, so that he wouldn’t have needed a 2nd pit stop to abide the rules, give 1 stop to both and bottas wins.

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