Hamilton believes he could have won with a two-stop strategy

2021 French Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton believes he could have won the French Grand Prix had he switched to a two-stop strategy as race winner Max Verstappen did.

The Mercedes driver led the early stages of the race, but dropped behind Verstappen when the Red Bull driver took his first pit stop before Hamilton came in. Verstappen made a second stop later in the race, and Hamilton regained the lead by staying out, but was passed by the Red Bull on the penultimate lap.

He believes they could have beaten Red Bull had they considered a two-stop strategy, but said they had committed to making just one.

“A two stop would have potentially done the job, but it was not on the cards at all for us,” said Hamilton. “So we’ll do some analysis and try and figure out why.”

Despite seeing Verstappen increase his lead in the championship to 12 points, Hamilton was phlegmatic about his defeat.

“I think we did a great job today and it just didn’t work out,” he said. “So I’m not massively disappointed. I think I did the best job I could today.

“Of course there were things that we could probably have done slightly better. But overall, they have been quicker than us all weekend. So it’s a true reflection of the pace they have.”

Verstappen passed Hamilton on the approach to the Mistral chicane on the penultimate lap. Hamilton said there was no point trying to defend hard against a significantly quicker car on worn tyres, and pointed out Valtteri Bottas had also been unable to keep the Red Bull behind.

“Firstly, there’s marbles on the inside, so I don’t want to make my tyres any worse than they already were. He had the DRS open and if he didn’t pass me there, he would have passed me the straight afterwards. So it made zero difference.

“I just had no front end so he would have passed me either way. So it was pointless to defend any harder. I think you saw what happened to Valtteri, he ended up going straight on so there was no point messing up the tyres any more.”

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2021 French Grand Prix

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28 comments on “Hamilton believes he could have won with a two-stop strategy”

  1. Lewis would have to pass Perez in case of the 2nd pitstop. Tough to do here.
    But a 2nd pitstop for Bottas at the end of Lap 51 had to be done. Strange that Mercedes team didn’t take the Fastest Lap option for Bottas.

    1. @bulgarian maybe betting on a tire blowing and didn’t want to be too far back to capitalise?

      1. There were reports of a possible 5 sec penalty for Perez. After his pass on Bottas two of his wheels left the track.
        But two on track so nu punishment.

    2. JossThaBoss
      20th June 2021, 19:02

      Bottas might not be to happy to take his chance with an extra pistop.

    3. @bulgarian He would also have to pass Bottas, but no doubt Mercedes would have just conveniently switched Bottas to a 2 stopper just at the right time..

  2. I’m not sure he’s right. What tyres did he have left and would he have destroyed those chasing Sergio and then Max? Perez is a difficult one to pass and Lewis knows that from the race in Baku… The fact that Perez was within the pitstop window most of the race just limited their strategic options too much.

    1. I’m not sure either but it is clear they should have pitted Hamilton the lap after Bottas’ stop (and therefore the same lap as Verstappen). It’s not like it was a surprise Verstappen pitted, they started the sequence themselves with Bottas. If Hamilton and Verstappen stopped on the same lap it would with near certainty mean Hamilton would remain in front. I don’t understand why they didn’t do that. A combination of underestimating the undercut and them wanting to create a slight tire offset I suppose.

      Now what would have happened after that, nobody knows. Maybe a reversed scenario.. maybe Hamilton keeping the pace just slow enough to back Verstappen into Bottas.. maybe an undercut by Verstappen and therefore coming to the same result anyway… At that point they hadn’t figured out the extent of the tire degradation yet so still going for the 1 stop. If their pace would be slower than what they actually did, then it would be more in favor of 1 stopping. I’d guess logically seen his chances would be better if he indeed had track position. And seeing RBR and Verstappen only just pulled it off… it might be enough of a difference to make it a Hamilton win

  3. It still might not have worked out in their favour, but the Mercedes call to keep Lewis out for 2 laps after they brought in Bottas was mind-blowingly stupid.

    They knew Max and Red Bull would be forced to react the lap after they brought Bottas in. They knew the undercut was powerful. They knew a single mistake would mean Lewis fell behind Max, even if they hadn’t under-estimated the time gain from the undercut too.

    If Lewis pitted on the same lap, he comes out ahead and can continue to control the pace. At worst his tyres are in better condition for a 1 stop, or they decide to go for a 2 stop after building a slight buffer.

    They completely undid all their good work as a team to that point and it was obvious at the time they were taking a massive gamble they didn’t need to take. No excuse for such an error.

    Beyond that though, great race and it really wasn’t clear who was going to run even with 5 laps to go. Long may it continue.

    1. I agree that they missed a beat with that one @simon999. Maybe they were waiting to see whether Verstappen would actually react to Bottas pitting (so that they would not give up the lead to Max?), must probably be it, because otherwise there was no reason to wait that long.

      I guess if they had stopped the lap after Bottas, at that moment RB would have just left Max out to try and go long like Perez did (and would maybe have pitted Perez instead to try and copy the Mercedes strategy)? It shows why it is important for either team that they had both of their drivers to put into play.

  4. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    20th June 2021, 18:30

    Same as in Baku, Lewis didn’t deliver on his in lap to the pit.
    In Baku it cost him 2 places and here in France only 1 place, this despite Mercedes doing a quicker pitstop.

    Mercedes clearly had the faster car, even were gifted the lead when Max ran wide but Hamilton and team strategist messed it up allowing Max to steal the win back.
    Also running wide and going over those curbs didn’t help either.
    Bottas is not worthy of any comments

    Perez drove a brilliant race, initially folks were saying too slow but Perez always plays the long game, keeping tyres alive longer and got a well deserved podium.

  5. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    20th June 2021, 18:35

    Would have, should have, could have Lewis.
    If there would be VSC or SC after Max pitted for 2nd time you would have won as well.

    Fact is that you should have won this race after Max gifted you the lead but your too slow in lap, going off riding over that curb and the strategist not using his calculator cost you the race.

    Saying that Red Bulls were the quicker cars if an easy and false excuse, everyone could see that the Mercs were the fastest, both cars (even Bottas) could easily follow Max in dirty air after the first pitstops.

    Red Bull used smart tactics and a brilliant drive from Max to take the win. Same as Merc/Lewis did in Hungary and Bahrain, today both simply didn’t deliver the performance needed for the win.

    1. Absolutely, I don’t think hamilton drove a bad race, but indeed mercedes seemed faster on pace, this is a problem for red bull cause so far every single track except street ones had a faster mercedes in the race, I think they need to do something to cut that deficit, otherwise it’s too many points lost over time.

  6. Personally, I don’t agree. Had he done it after Verstappen’s pitstop, he would have come out behind him, and then would have been just as unlikely to make the pass as he was before the pitstops. Had he done it before Verstappen pitted, he could have undercut Verstappen, so Red Bull would surely have left Verstappen out on a one-stop. Then, Hamilton and Verstappen’s positions would be the reverse of what happened, but I think Hamilton would not have caught Verstappen, as he would have lost time behind Perez (probably more than Verstappen lost behind Bottas, as Perez’s tyres were better than Bottas’), and his tyres would have been slightly older when he caught Verstappen (as he would have to have pitted earlier than Max did in real life), and also there were those extra few seconds that he would have been behind Verstappen than Verstappen was behind him in the actual race, as he was behind when he came in. These three things would have cost Hamilton that bit more time than Verstappen lost, and as Verstappen didn’t make the pass until the penultimate lap, I suspect that Hamilton wouldn’t have made the pass at all. But of course, we will never know.

    1. Agree with this, not only was the 1 stop the better option for mercedes, but also I don’t think the 2 stop was a good idea from red bull, it seemed an unnecessary gamble.

  7. Mercedes strategists dropped the ball big time today. First pitting Lewis a lap too late and he lost to Max. Then when Lewis was behind he could have done what Max did and pitted. But still Redbull is the fastest and best all-rounder car on the grid. Lewis is making it seem close at the front. Redbull produced a superior car this year. Even a blind can see that.

    1. You reckon Mercedes dropped the ball big time today, then VER should have won by at least a 10sec margin… if it’s the fastest and best all around car. Today, Mercedes seemed slightly faster than RBR and should have won….. if Mercedes didn’t drop the ball in the strategy room.

      1. Exactly, amg44’s comment doesn’t make sense logic wise, if they dropped the ball and barely lost, they instead looked quicker, but then again I guess mercedes and their fans are used to sandbagging and talking up the opponents.

  8. “then VER should have won by at least a 10sec margin”

    Margin doesn’t matter. Redbull was the fastest car no matter they won by 10 seconds or 3 seconds. Mercedes are in trouble and championship is slipping away. Redbull are beating Mercedes at their most dominant tracks like this one and miles ahead in street tracks clearly shows that Redbull are the fastest.

    1. This was a win that got away from mercedes because of strategic reasons, they had the fastest car. If anything it’s worrying for red bull cause all tracks left are more similar to this than monaco or baku.

  9. I was under the impression in the mid-race radio that they gave Lewis the choice on whether to react to Max’s second pitstop?

    Was that not actually the case?

    1. Yes, they asked him and he decided to continue, so…

  10. So far looks like the Racing gods have already chalked Verstappen for his 1st championship. To equal Hamilton’s first chapionship win also aged 23.

  11. Mercedes had the fastest race car and they threw away the race win with two mistakes. Coming up to the first pitstop, the order was Hamilton 3 seconds ahead of verstappen who was 3s ahead of bottas. They identified the gap for undercut to verstappen and tried with bottas, yet did not communicate with Hamilton to pickup the pace. Because they were able to identify undercut they should have identified the threat of undercut on Hamilton, as all weekend red bull had better tire warm up.
    Secondly they were too sloppy when it came time to make a second stop. You could see Hamiltons car was massively faster than verstappen after the first stop, yet didn’t have the top speed to get along side, with Drs the straights were just not long enough. They let the gap balloon out to 3s when verstappen made his second stop, after Hamilton has taken the best out of his tires. They should have pitted Hamilton when he was right on verstappens gearbox.
    A bonus point, the plan to win the race was built around how well bottas defended against verstappen. When has bottas ever put up a good on track defense? I knew as soon as verstappen got close he’d just fold. Wasn’t surprised

    1. Indeed, surprised to see some people say that mercedes was slower, but seemed pretty clear both to me and my father that with same tyres merc was faster, I mean, even bottas was keeping up with verstappen!

      Onto your point about bottas folding easily, however, I think he resisted well considering the tyres, he tried what he could without breaking the rules.

  12. The guy who came second seems to disagree with him during his post race interview.

  13. “I just had no front end so he would have passed me either way. So it was pointless to defend any harder. I think you saw what happened to Valtteri, he ended up going straight on so there was no point messing up the tyres any more.”
    An interesting “defence” of Valtteri there?

    1. @jjohn No, it was a defense of himself by highlighting how bad others were. ‘Others did worse than me’

  14. Maybe…….Lewis wrecked his fronts trying to pressure Max after the stop. Had he backed of a second or two he would have been better off for the last few laps when he really needed them.

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