Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2020

Missed chance to avoid Hamilton’s puncture “a mistake that could have cost us dearly”

2020 British Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

Mercedes admits it missed an opportunity to avoid Lewis Hamilton’s last-lap puncture in the British Grand Prix by not pitting him as the final lap began.

Hamilton’s left-front tyre failed while he was leading on the final lap of the race. His team mate Valtteri Bottas had suffered a similar failure three laps earlier while running second.

Red Bull brought Max Verstappen into the pits on the penultimate lap from second place, which left Hamilton enough of a gap to make a pit stop without losing the lead of the race. However Mercedes chose to leave him out.

Mercedes strategy director James Vowles admitted they missed a chance to spare Hamilton the last-lap drama which put his victory in doubt until he dragged his car and punctured tyre over the line.

“In the case of ‘could we have done things differently’, with Lewis undoubtedly,” said Vowles in a video published by Mercedes. “There was an opportunity to stop the car.

“It happened on the very last lap of the race. If we had stopped prior to that, we would have given the win to Verstappen and it’s important to understand that.

“If he had stayed out and we had stopped and dropped behind, I’m fairly sure Red Bull would have stayed out. Furthermore, Red Bull stopping, which was for fundamentally the fastest lap reason as well as perhaps consideration over tyre durability, cost them the race win on Sunday.”

Vowles said the team didn’t expect the tyre would fail given Hamilton had a 34-second lead over Verstappen and could afford to drive back steadily. But the tyre let go at Luffield.

“As we sit here now, we should have brought that car in,” said Vowles. “The reason why we didn’t was the car was 30 seconds up the road, Lewis was already driving many seconds off the pace and all he needed to do was to do the last lap of the race in the middle of the road. You are not that nervous about running on a tyre for another lap and there’s risks involved in doing another pit stop.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2020
Hamilton made it to the line just before Verstappen caught him
“Driving around one more lap out there in the middle of the road up to 15 seconds off the pace if you wanted to can sometimes be a safer proposition. Clearly as we stand here now, that was a mistake and one that could have cost us dearly, and fortunately didn’t on the day.”

Vowles praised Hamilton’s “incredibly impressive” driving after the failure. He crossed the line with five seconds to spare over Verstappen after driving two-thirds of a lap with only three fully inflated tyres.

His cornering speed around the right-hander at Stowe was particularly impressive, said Vowles. “[That’s] a very high-speed right-hand corner, remembering that it’s the front-left that has gone, the tyre that would be loaded in that circumstance. And as he exits, he properly guns it on the way down into the last sequence of corners to get across the line.

“The fact he took that apex speed with fundamentally three tyres on the car is mighty and he did a great job getting it across the line.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2020 F1 season

Browse all 2020 F1 season articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

26 comments on “Missed chance to avoid Hamilton’s puncture “a mistake that could have cost us dearly””

  1. It seems silly to make a pit stop with just one lap remaining. But given the state of the tires and the opportunity offered by Verstappen pitting one lap before, yes. And hindsight of course.

    But what if they did pit and something went wrong? You never know after all.

    1. You’re damned if you do or damned if you don’t on these occasions. In hindsight, Merc should have pitted Hamilton at the start of the final lap. But if the tyre had held out just half a lap more, they would have made the right decision.

      Alternatively, what if they had pitted him and had a sticky wheel nut or cross thread? Hamilton only had a few seconds margin over Verstappen, that would have cost the win. You can imagine the online critisicm against Mercedes, along the lines of “why pit with one lap to go and a 34 second lead, just go slow. Idiots LOL”

      In reality they made a right decision of sorts anyway – they won the race.

    2. Whatever.. It happened. No-one got hurt.
      We were provided with an awesome spectacle of what Lewis can do in extremis.
      I for one feel fortunate to have witnessed the incredible feat of driving a 150MPH Reliant Robin on its chin
      to finish 1st in an F1 race.
      Bravo & Bravissimo.

  2. A couple of corrections:

    Bottas got a puncture two laps earlier than Hamilton (lap 50) and not three laps earlier as stated (okay, 2 and a bit laps as Bottas’ puncture happened shortly after the new pit straight on lap 50, and Hamilton’s happened shortly before the old pit straight on lap 52. Max also pitted for new tyres on the third last lap (end of lap 50) and not the penultimate lap.

    1. Thank you for the clarification! It is very useful!

      1. You’re welcome @bulgarian. Usually @keithcollantine is excellent with his accuracy in reporting the lap numbers of these things. Just a couple of minor things here which help tell the story – if a driver is going for the fastest lap they need to head into the pits on their third last lap at the latest.

  3. Can’t wait for Luck to finally run out.

    1. It is not luck. An it won’t end.
      Deal with it

    2. You make your own luck sometimes.
      I’d wager that his tyre would have failed earlier had he been a less complete Grand Prix driver.

      Just as Bottas would have still been right behind him had he been a more complete Grand Prix driver.

      And just as Verstappen would have been closer had Red Bull done a better job.

      Lucky to get to line in front? Yes. Skilled enough that it didn’t happen earlier? Yes.

      1. Red Bull/Verstappen did a better job at managing the tires.
        They changed for the fast lap, not because the tire was at the cliff.

        1. It’s a shame they were so slow that, even with the Mercs cruising, they gave up trying to win the race and went for fastest lap instead then isn’t it?

        2. And then after the race, discovered the tire was on the verge of failing.

          So had they not changed for fast lap, it’s possible Verstappen would have had to drive the Red Bull three-wheeled– and I don’t think it would have worked.

        3. F1oSaurus (@)
          6th August 2020, 7:57

          Verstappen was complaining about vibrations. Just like Bottas.

          Hamilton didn’t have vibrations.

          But indeed, Verstappen threw away a win there, because he wanted to get one point extra. Smart move.

          1. IF they knew that Lewis got a flat tyre they could decide to continue but max stopped 2 laps before that happens so this is hindsight. So Max did the smart move by pitting and glad they did as his tyre wasn’t far from going anyway.

          2. F1oSaurus (@)
            6th August 2020, 11:02

            @macleod Well betting on a flat should be part of the equation. It would net Verstappen 7 points extra and take 7 away from Hamilton. That’s a plus of 14. That 14 points times the chance of this happening would be higher than the estimated chance of points gained/lost with a stop for a fastest lap. Which in itself is a risky thing to do.

          3. But it’s still hindsight AND Max could have also a flat tyre as he had the same problems. I think they just took the safe way by pitting.

    3. Yea, its odd that the more he works at his craft the luckier he gets. Although if you got pole and lead the race til the last lap when you then got a puncture I would think most would describe that as bad luck.

    4. Bruno Verrari
      5th August 2020, 20:37

      +1. Getting closer by the day!

    5. GtisBetter (@)
      5th August 2020, 22:38

      Since when I getting a problem with the car called luck?

  4. Hope they will review their approach to such situations.
    34 seconds is enough buffer to pit, even with some problems, and win the race.

  5. I remember watching and thinking that surely Mercedes would bring Hamilton in after Bottas and Sainz suffered tyre failures. Hamilton was 30 seconds ahead. It was a shocker similar to what they did last year at Brazil.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      6th August 2020, 7:59

      @amg44 But seriously, pit for just one more lap? While Hamilton reported his tires still felt perfectly fine. Unlike Bottas’ who was complaining about vibrations many laps before his tire blew.

      1. But he had a 30 seconds gap so it was an easy pitstop. Mercedes just saw 2 cars suffered tyre failures in 2 laps so pitting Lewis would have been the correct and safe decision as they have admitted it now.

        “In the case of ‘could we have done things differently’, with Lewis undoubtedly,” said Vowles in a video published by Mercedes. “There was an opportunity to stop the car”

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          6th August 2020, 11:05

          @amg44 I saw the interview too, but I’m talking about the case where you don’t already know the tyre failed.

          In reality, Hamilton reported his tyres were fine unlike Bottas’. So they had no indication his would fail too. Going for a stop is dangerous too and there was only one lap left.

          They could have, but normal logic (ie without hindsight) would not dictate taking that stop for one final lap only

  6. So this weekend, Mercedes will pull a gap, pit both drivers for the second time and remain unbeatable.

    They will learn from this mistake and properly adapt. Meanwhile other teams are to slow to have luxury of safety stops.

    If this goes on much further, they might include a cosmetic stop, for cleaning the car before final lap, so sponsors look shiny.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      6th August 2020, 11:09

      @jureo Yes and Red Bull can do the same. So the whole top 3 or 4 will be safe …

      Seems unlikely any team can finish with just one stop though. So then all will make two stops.

Comments are closed.