Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Zandvoort, 2021

Mercedes believe they didn’t miss a “big opportunity” to win at Zandvoort

2021 Dutch Grand Prix

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Mercedes didn’t miss a significant chance to win yesterday’s Dutch Grand Prix, the team’s head of trackside operations Andrew Shovlin said after the race.

Lewis Hamilton started and finished second behind Max Verstappen, twice pitting before his rival in an attempt to jump ahead of him. However each time the Red Bull driver came out ahead.

Mercedes extended Valtteri Bottas’ first stint in an attempt to help Hamilton get on terms with the Red Bull driver, also to no avail.

Shovlin believes Red Bull’s pace advantage was too much for Mercedes to overcome on the day and opportunities for them to achieve a better result were limited.

“The opportunities are the normal ones like getting off the line,” he said. “If that had been better, then it at least puts you in the driving seat.

“Looking at the stops, the problem was Lewis was having to push very hard to close up. We certainly seemed a little bit stronger on that medium tyre and we could get that gap down a bit, and we’ll go through it as we always do. But I don’t think there was a point where you’d say we could have won.

“Also when you look at the gaps and when we were at our closest, it was too far for us to really run to the finish. But you’ve got to remember that Max has an element of management in his running and he can let those gaps shrink when you’re not at risk and grow them when when you are.

“We could see where he was pushing hard and I think in reality, there wasn’t any big opportunity that we let slip through our fingers.”

Mercedes could have been in a more competitive position had they got more out of their car during practice, Shovlin suspects.

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“I think it goes back to arriving here in better shape with a set-up that’s working well, completing the programme, getting all our homework done, and when we’ve checked all those boxes we’re normally in a position to challenge them properly for the win,” he said.

While all drivers were compromised by the frequent red flags during practice, Hamilton missed virtually all of Friday’s second session after suffering a power unit failure. The team therefore moved some of their Friday job-list to Saturday, though that reduced the amount of preparation they could do for qualifying, in which Hamilton missed pole position by just 38 thousandths of a second.

“All we tried to do was put a bit of long-run work into Saturday because he hadn’t really done any long run,” said Shovlin. “Consequently, he’d also missed another opportunity to try that soft tyre that you can’t get back.

“But you’ve seen with all the red flags, it’s very difficult to run the sessions as planned. Even his session on Saturday was impacted. And even going into qualifying because we did the medium [in Q1] and then we were on cold tyres because of a red flag going into Q2, it was quite late before we actually had a run where it was hot tyres out of the box that were fresh.

“So we were just playing catch-up a bit and it was encouraging to see that we could get close – I know Max didn’t have a perfect lap. But this weekend we’ve been a little bit behind the curve and trying to catch up and we need to get everything right to beat them.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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39 comments on “Mercedes believe they didn’t miss a “big opportunity” to win at Zandvoort”

  1. Shovlin believes Red Bull’s pace advantage was too much for Mercedes to overcome on the day and opportunities for them to achieve a better result were limited.

    Looking at the race and the speed during quali the difference was at best 0,1 in favor of Redbull.
    With two cars in front Mercedes never could lose this race with a good strategy.
    Putting a 0,1 advantage to work you need a very consistent driver, focusing on the job.
    As Lewis stated the strategy was strange to say the least.
    Mercedes cracked under the pressure and screwed the strategy.
    Whereas max performed flawlessly under the immense pressure.

    1. You are aware that Max made an error on his pole lap (double upshift) and also his DRS wasn’t working correctly?

      Where do you get this “0.1” seconds advantage from? It was more like 0.4 seconds.

      Once Max got away into the lead the result was never really in doubt, he clearly had a quicker car evidenced by his 1.7s lead after lap 1.

      1. I really wouldn’t bother @david you can’t reason or debate with Erikje. There’s no logic to their points and it’s all anti Mercedes/Hamilton while making Max into a god.

        Completely agree with you David. The DRS in the final sector alone cost max 0.3

        Doesn’t sound like much but that x72 laps is 21 seconds, while Hamilton was able to keep close in the race Max had the pace to open the gap when needed and was never under any real pressure. Evidenced by the fact the gap closed to 1.2 seconds in the later stages, yet was over 4 seconds again within 3 laps.

        Pulling out 1.6 seconds on the opening lap shows his true pace advantage too.

        No disrespect to Max, he drove a very solid race, but him and RedBull were just too quick for Mercedes this weekend. To say the gap was less than 0.1 or Mercedes dropped the ball is nonsense.

      2. The Drs use is only for about 600meters. That’s hardly 0.1 if everything is working as expected. And we are talking quali, so hardly any fuel and max performance over 1 lap. Nothing compared to race situations where the laptines are about 5 or 6 sec slower.
        And just look at the race laps Lewis was able to put down. But not as consistent as ver did.
        That’s the difference.

    2. Mercedes had two cars in front, but Bottas was a little too slow to be really impactful. If there had been another Hamilton, or, say, a Russell in the other car, things might have worked out differently. If Bottas had been ahead of Verstappen after Max’s second pit stop, Mercedes would have had more strategic options available to them: first of all, just threatening to win the race with Bottas on a one-stop, and put the onus on Verstappen to pass him, and second, it would have been much easier for Lewis to close up to Max and attempt an undercut.

      One thing they might have tried, which @hahostolze mentioned below, is to pit Lewis when Max closed up to Bottas but did not pass him right away. It would probably still not have worked, as that would have been a very sub-optimal race strategy for Lewis, but in hindsight it might have been worth a shot.

      1. @adrianmorse According to Mercedes pitting early wasn’t possible:

        Also when you look at the gaps and when we were at our closest, it was too far for us to really run to the finish. But you’ve got to remember that Max has an element of management in his running and he can let those gaps shrink when you’re not at risk and grow them when when you are.

        I agree that two Hamiltons likely would have beaten Verstappen by splitting strategies. Bottas’ relatively poor race pace meant he was soon caught by Verstappen. To make matters worse, he almost immediately got passed, after which it was too early for Hamilton to pit, so Mercedes lost a chance to undercut Verstappen. Bottas had to manage his tires as he was on a 1-stopper, and was therefore unable to undercut Verstappen as well. Maybe he should have pushed harder after his stop to make Verstappen’s race more difficult, though. So Mercedes definitely missed a chance to win this race. Their slow pit stops didn’t help either.

        1. However don’t forget the line-up differences: 2 hamiltons would be the best current line-up and seeing recent articles, hamilton-russell will still likely be the best line-up, if you get another verstappen you can do more to win the race on red bull side as well, as things are mercedes will have a MASSIVELY better line up than red bull next year, which is worrying.

  2. I agree with Shovlin.

    Mercedes’ qualifying disadvantage was IMO 0.15-0.20 seconds (had Max applied DRS correctly). That isn’t easy to overcome for the driver alone in qualifying.
    In race, Max was able to stay out of the undercut range (> 2.5-3 seconds) all the time. Even if Mercedes hadn’t made that strange early 2nd stop, they didn’t have anything by which they could have overtaken Max. That early 2nd stop compromised both – Lewis and Max’s pace and increased the total race duration for both by around 10-15 seconds. But it didn’t change the order of the cars.

    Regarding the loss of practice time. Could Mercedes have reduced that 0.15-0.20s advantage had they got Lewis also pounding the laps on Friday? May be. I personally don’t think so. Teams have so much advanced simulation tools with them these days that practice is more about validating the simulation and then using the setups as recommended by the simulation. It is not about finding new data and to determine new setups.

    1. He wasn’t, though. There where quite some laps below 2.0 seconds. That would have been the right time to attack und put on hards- They missed it by a few laps.

    2. Agree about the 2nd stop, they definitely were racing each other and ignoring bottas since he was so far behind.

  3. I beg to differ – there was a chance, and they did miss it.

  4. There was a chance – RB and the neutral journalists all say so. Not a big chance for sure, but bring in Hamilton when Verstappen was stuck behind Bottas and you probably succesfully undercut him.

    1. I don’t understand what you’re saying here. Verstappen didn’t have another stop to go after being “stuck” behind Bottas. He also overtook Bottas so quickly and his tires were still under 10 laps old at that point, so the likelihood of Lewis getting that stop out of the way (having to go to hards since they had no Mediums left and it was way too early to go for Softs) and then catching up and overtaking Max was next to nothing, even with Bottas moving aside from him.

      Reply moderated
    2. bring in Hamilton when Verstappen was stuck behind Bottas

      But that was at the end of lap 29; too soon (unless you commit to a 3-stopper).

    3. @hahostolze Seriously, stop Hamilton again on lap 30? After he just stopped on lap 20. Or do you mean, don’t try the undercut on lap 20 and wait for Verstappen to stop on lap 25 and have no issue at all with either Bottas or Hamilton?

    4. I think if there was a mistake from Mercedes it would be they underestimated the speed they could get out of the hard tyres. They wanted to use the mediums, and therefore could not bring Hamilton in that early. He would have to stop at the end again.

    5. “Neutral journalists” who clearly don’t understand anything about F1? Stopping Hamilton on lap 20 and then again 9 laps later wouldn’t have scared RedBull at all. Bottas really didn’t hold Verstappen up enough to damage his race and he’d have been able to open that gap back up again.

      Hamilton would be stuck on a 3 stop whereas Max could manage an easy 2 stop.

      Yes, Hamilton might have gained track position if Verstappen stopped the next lap, but I can’t see RedBull mirroring such an early second stop.

      Even if they did, they had the pace to sit behind Hamilton and get the undercut on the next stops.

      It’s all ifs and buts, but ultimately RedBull/Verstappen had the pace advantage and could easily cover whatever Mercedes threw at them.

      1. Tom, @f1osaurus, stopping Hamilton on lap 30 and putting him onto hard tyres would have allowed him to finish the race on those tyres. The two challenges would be: going quickly enough on the hard tyres to effectively undercut Verstappen when he would finally come in for his second stop, and second, holding Verstappen behind on much older tyres. The first might be possible, but then the second would likely not be possible. Still, with the strategy they eventually chose their chances of winning were also extremely slim. Note, I am not blaming Mercedes for their strategy here, just pointing out that another strategy might at least have briefly gained them track position.

        1. I completely agree with you @adrianmorse

          Mercedes probably could have gained track position around lap 30, but in doing so open themselves up to committing to a 3 stop or having zero grip at the end. Verstappen had the pace to cover off either of those options, so the win was never in question.

          @hahostolze I’d still love to know who these “neutral journalists” are because they don’t deserve a job in F1 if they can’t understand how races actually work. Leading the race at one stage is much different from winning it.

        2. @adrianmorse Sorry, but that’s just silly.

        3. “second, holding Verstappen behind on much older tyres. The first might be possible, but then the second would likely not be possible”

          Why not? you only have to deliberately T-bone Max again, after Silverstone and the Hungaroring, Merc have already a lot of practice.

        4. Agree, adrian, seems at least a thing they could’ve tried, even if maybe it wouldn’t work in the end.

  5. True, but they didn’t lose the opportunity to send themselves further back .

  6. Sorry, but the Merc strategy was spot on. Well thought out and well executed.

    Paraphrasing-
    Bono-we need you to go the the end on these tyres.
    Ham-but I want to go fast.
    Bono-Oh, go on then.

    If these strategy decisions like here and in Hungary are going to result in Ham having to go flat chat throughout the race, then carry on making them.

    1. Sorry, but the Merc strategy was spot on

      Agreed, and I hope they keep up the good work the rest of the season.

  7. Actually I believe the best chance was with about 18 laps to go and Hamilton was about 1.6 sec behind Verstappen. Could have been enough to prevent RedBull from responding to the pit with a good outlap and to have enough laps to chase Verstappen down with a set of soft. Surely pace advantage was >1.5 sec between Verstappen hard and “new” soft at that stage of the race and soft would hold the 18 remaining laps.

    But who knows the actual data except for RedBull and Mercedes.

    1. Also a good chance, was thinking about it while watching, that maybe they could’ve done like spain in the end.

  8. I was always in awe of Vowles and Mercedes strategy, but now that it’s close and stressed they are making mistakes like everyone else.

    Ditto Red Bull. They used to make horrible blunders, but now they are right up there. (Yes they did this time too with Perez in qualy, but in the old days they would have done something weird or fallen for Mercedes’ bluffs)

    1. okay then, what in your opinion should Mercedes have done differently then? cause i don’t see it

      1. @nickthegreek Delay Lewis’s 2nd pitstop for a bit, to allow Bottas on his fresh mediums to get into the pitstop window, forcing Max to pass him again. The previous occasion Max had to pass Bottas, Lewis slashed the gap from 4 seconds to 0.8 in a lap.

        Or else commit to a third stop early, like they did in Spain and Hungary 2019, forcing Max to stay out on old tyres.

        1. Max passed Bottas in 1 lap. I don’t see how this would have worked especially at the rate the gap was opening between Max and Lewis. Lewis had to try the undercut, it was his best hope, Bottas could not have played a meaningful role in this race

          also, Max did stay out on old tyres and his pace was fine. Lewis only had Softs available; they would have dropped off well before he even covered the ground that he’d lost duringthe pit stop

          in my opinion at least..

      2. @nickthegreek Mercedes has admitted they should have played it differently

  9. While concentrating on max redbull ruined perez quali session. So i wont say they are bullet proof when it comes to strategy. Its just that they totally focus on 1 driver (max) even sacrificing the other driver. They seem more intent on winning the drivers championship than winning the real competition which brings in the big bucks. Because at face value as a fan we like the driver championship more than the constructors.

    1. If perez had performed on his first lap in q1 this wouldn’t have been a problem but ofc yet again beaten by several non-red bulls and non-mercedes.

    2. Beaten immediately, that is, not with track evolution, which is then what cost him his elimination.

  10. They pitted Lewis too early after Lewis lost some time to traffic.lewis needed to claw that time back first before pitting.they also gave Lewis a super slow pitstop,which I think was about 1.5 seconds slower than Max’s pitstop.they also pitted Lewis at the wrong time again,sending him out in traffic….in atleast 4 races this season,they’ve given Lewis a dodgy strategy,which has cost him valuable points…but because they keep making excuses for their strategists incompetence,,they will keep giving Lewis bad strategies this season…their strategist is not good enough to be in a top team,in a closely fought championship battle.

    1. Years of running in free air far infront do little to prepare for this kind of fight yes.

      But being slow makes your strategist look bad aswell, just think Seb and Leclerc battles against Lewis, often they would make bad strategy calls.. But there were no good ones to make.

  11. They only had opportunity at the start, if Verstappen would have a bad start.

    After that Red Bull – Verstappen had them covered. They tried all their options, split strategy.. Maybe if they had two Hamiltons on split strategy..

    But they were just slower.

  12. I have an opinion
    6th September 2021, 22:28

    Mercedes really did try everything, and had all the cards except the faster car. Red Bull’s strategy of “pit the lap after Hamilton, overtake everyone else” was sufficient. Max was never under threat at any stage.

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