Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2019

Mercedes wouldn’t risk “heart-sink” Hamilton pit stop call again

2019 F1 season

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Mercedes admitted the shouldn’t have risked a final extra pit stop for Lewis Hamilton at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The team gave Hamilton the choice of pitting when the final Safety Car was triggered by the two Ferrari drivers clashing. They mistakenly believed Hamilton would only lose one place, to Alexander Albon, but he fell behind Pierre Gasly as well.

“From the moment that we made the call, it was a heart-sink moment after he emerged from the box behind Gasly,” said technical director James Allison. “And then we just were thinking ‘why do we do that’?”

After studying their strategy calls more closely in the days since the race, the team’s trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said the team underestimated how long the Safety Car would be out for.

“When we decided to call Lewis in on that final Safety Car, we had seen that the Ferraris had collided,” he said in a video published by Mercedes. “One of them was off at turn four and reasonably clear of the track.

“Vettel was making his way round with a puncture, that was dropping a bit of debris, but we thought he would get back to the pits. At the point the Safety Car was called, Lewis was at turn 12, so there wasn’t long for us to discuss this decision.

“Subsequent to that, Vettel pulled over before he made it back, although he was reasonably clear of the track, but [Lance] Stroll unfortunately got taken out by debris from Vettel. This meant that the Safety Car period was longer than we might have got away with.”

However even if the Safety Car period had been shorter, Mercedes realised Hamilton stood to gain too little from the call.

“Regardless of that, we’ve looked at the situation [and] it was a real gamble. Probably in the best-case scenario we’d have made it back to where we started in second and on reflection it wasn’t a good call.

“So, were we doing the race again, that’s the single decision that we’d really like to change.”

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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 wouldn’t risk “heart-sink” Hamilton pit stop call again”

  1. Am I the only one who thinks he should have just followed Max in for new softs? Ted and Horner both indicated that the box-opposite option was the only logical choice…but it seemed silly to me even in real-time.

    He could have fought for the win on track. The old mediums were never going to be fast enough.

    1. 100% agree. The way he closed down Max at whim in the first stint indicated Hamilton was managing his tyres better than Max. On a like for like strategy there was certainly a shot, worst case P2.

      It was also comical how Crofty plain forgot that lapped cars may unlap themselves and tried to create false tension by stating Max would have to get through the backmarkers before getting to Lewis. No.

    2. Agree, their first call (do the opposite) was worse than their second.
      I thought that Hamilton, with 2 laps to go, would still have a fair chance at a win: Get Gassly at the end of the straight (Max showed him how to do that); overtake Albon during the first lap; and, have a full lap to fight Max with fresher tyres.

  2. This could only ever happen because Mercedes and Hamilton were the Champions already, so there was no huge pressure on Mercedes. They would think twice if they had to answer to Mr. Toto Wolff face to face immediately after the race, too. :) I am glad they learned a lesson. Mercedes team, please, keep your eyes and mind open for Abu Dhabi – Lewis deserves to finish the season on a podium!

  3. I’m perplexed that they think they ‘underestimated’ how long the SC would be on track. It was lucky they had any laps left. It took them ages to clear Bottas’s nicely parked car, while the Ferraris left the track strewn with debris.

  4. Good.
    Next year not making such mistakes might be crucial!

  5. It took them ages to clear Bottas’s nicely parked car, while the Ferraris left the track strewn with debris.

    @david-br Yeah, it’s clear we’re now at a point where the actions of the race director appear to be somewhat influenced by the ‘spectacle’ rather than purely based on safety protocol. That, alongside the black-and-white-flag debacle and unclear interpretations of the rulebook throughout the season, are leaving me with little faith in Masi to be able to carry out his role with pure objectivity and professionalism.

    1. @ninjenius The use of the SC to add spice preceded Masi, I think, but I agree about the rule interpretations this season. I thought Canada was brave (and correct) but the Ferrari pressure seemed to induce a meltdown. I can’t understand virtually any decision now. Including why Hamilton was penalized for a racing incident in which Albon was in big part to blame.

      1. Peter Waters (@)
        20th November 2019, 18:23

        Well said Sir.

      2. @david-br: Excellent points. Baffling decisions mixed with poor explanations from Masi appears to have put Ferrari’s veto powers into the race director’s job description.

        1. I completely agree with all of you, guys! For me, Mr. Masi became famous after his farcial defence of notorious penalty for Leclerc’s unsafe release in German GP. I agree that everyone can make one mistake in some time, so I kept my eyes open, but kept my mouth shut… but then came Masi’s famous black-white flag warning for Leclerc in Monza etc. Now, his post race comments always make me smirk. I cannot take him seriously anymore.

  6. The funny thing is they would have ended up in the same position if not worse, lets not forget a TR out dragged him to the finish line an he was on fresh softs.

    1. @rockie With a broken front wing, an engine that doesn’t deal well with high altitude and probably a mostly depleted battery from fighting Albon for the first half of the lap.

      1. @f1osaurus

        Lol, you have definitely got to be having a laugh with that.
        You do realise it wasn’t on the same lap?

        Also he was right behind gasly n instead of using the slipstream he decided to out drag him.

  7. Mercedes were desperate trying to get by a faster driver in a faster car.

    They threw all kinds of strategies, undercuts, safety car pits etc… But in the end there was no getting by Verstappen on that race.

    Mind you those two undercuts were executed great. They just did not have straight line speed and pace to succeed after a successful strategy. Then strategic mistakes just compounded the issue.

    Ferrari can only hope to be this “bad” in strategy. Meanwhile Red Bulls young mother destroyed them with decisive final call.

    But that only looks decisive now it is all down to their pace advantage.

    Next race will be all different.

    1. @jureo

      Meanwhile Red Bulls young mother destroyed them with decisive final call.

      The same call which 6 other cars also used. Plus it was considered for Vettel, but he was out of tyres and for Hamilton, but they hoped the “do something” else from Verstappen would give them a better chance.

      Either way, Red Bull was much faster the whole weekend. It’s easy to make a strategy look good then.

      Just like Hamilton often fixes Mercedes’ strategy mistakes and even makes them look like genius choices afterwards. Like stopping Hamilton again in Hungary. He would have also won (but then a lot easier) if he simply used the tyre advantage he had on Verstappen. Rather than risking a pit stop and making all of that time back up in a few laps.

      Or Silverstone, where he made the slower strategy work and even pulled a fastest lap out at the end on super worn tyres. Or Monaco where Hamilton did a 66 lap stint on tyres supposed to last 50 laps.

      1. @f1osaurus

        True, a fast car can make many strategies work. Red Bull was fast on the straight to make the passes if needed and fast enough in the corners to leave Mercedes in the dust.

        This is why Ferrari often look poor on strategy, because they just have a slow car.

        1. @jureo Well it also takes a driver that can pull it off. You don’t see Bottas pull of he same things Hamilton or Verstappen can.

          1. Well yes, you need a brilliant in-lap, out-lap, and in general it helps if you can narrow the gap before the pit… even general it helps a lot if driver is fast and does not make mistakes during execution. So 5-6 super fast laps.

  8. Hamilton undercuts worked surprisingly well considering the 2.5+ sec pitstops which amazingly feel slow when compared to the Redbull blistering 1.9 sec pitstops… We’re always measuring a tenth faster this lap, two tenths, He’s gaining!! Redbull pitstops are massive and Merc needs more practice? How are they that fast??

    1. Well Kubica getting in the way in the pit lane would have helped some.

      1. This, and how amazing were those Red Bull stops right?

        1.9 seconds. I can hardly imagine what daily task takes so short to complete. Opening RaceFans.net 1600 ms to open fully in a browser.

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