Ocon’s non-stop strategy shows pitting Hamilton was correct call – Mercedes

2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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Mercedes believe their decision to call Lewis Hamilton into the pits in the latter stages of the Turkish Grand Prix was vindicated by the one driver who finished the race without changing tyres.

Hamilton criticised his team on the radio after they called him in from third place with eight laps to go fit a fresh set of intermediate tyres. He fell to fifth place at the finish.

The only other driver yet to make a pit stop when Hamilton came in, Esteban Ocon, continued to the end of the race without pitting. He finished a lap down and said he would have got a puncture had he gone one lap further.

Mercedes’ trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said Ocon’s drop-off in pace over the final laps showed bringing Hamilton in was the right thing to do.

“If you look at Esteban, he got overtaken by Lance [Stroll] about five or six laps from the end. He finished 17 seconds behind him. That’s how quickly you fall off.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2021
Gallery: 2021 Turkish Grand Prix in pictures
When Hamilton pitted he had an 11-second margin over Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez. Pitting Hamilton dropped him behind those two drivers, but Shovlin said the team were concerned he might have lost even more places by staying out.

“That’s what is in our minds, it’s not just if we can keep going at this pace. Esteban lost a further two seconds in that sort of short run to the finish, and that’s where it goes wrong.

“So we’ll go through it and double-check, but we’re fairly certain that we would have lost those two places, if not been at risk from more.”

The only way to secure a higher finishing position for Hamilton would have been to change his tyres much earlier in the race, Shovlin believes. He lost five second fighting for position with Perez on laps 33 and 34, following which Max Verstappen ahead of him pitted.

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“Lewis obviously had that fight with Perez and shortly after that when [Perez] decided to stop the question for us was are we certainly going to have to take another set of intermediates?

“We thought we’d wait and see because that opened up two possibilities. One is, if it transitions to dry, Lewis is suddenly back in the fight for a win because he’s made a whole load of race time back by not having to do the extra stop. And the other one is, can he actually get to the end on the intermediate, and by doing that, banking that P3?

“So those were the scenarios that we were looking at. Certainly the upside scenarios of a possibility of winning in the dry or P3 if we could make it all that way.”

However when Leclerc abandoned his effort to reach the end of the race without pitting, Mercedes began to realise Hamilton wouldn’t have the pace to keep his pursuers behind.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2021
Radio transcript: How Hamilton’s plan to delay his pit stop backfired
“When we’d seen Charles drop off in the Ferrari, you could see it comes quite quickly. We’d started to see a bit of a drop with Lewis anyway.

“On the [strategy] planners, suddenly we were seeing that those places that we lost by doing the stop, we’re going to lose anyway on track, to Perez and to Charles. And there was even a risk that was growing from behind if you really sort of dropped off the curve. So it was really just a case of cutting our losses and not getting too greedy.”

Although Shovlin believes the best strategy option was to make an earlier pit stop for intermediate tyres, the temptation to reach the end without pitting at that point would always have been strong.

“It certainly looked like, to have good condition intermediates at the end of the race, you would have needed to have stopped earlier. So all of those cars that were running well had them on for 20 laps or so. I think, honestly, we would have needed to bring the decision point even earlier around the time of that battle with Perez.

“Probably we would have still been looking at the upside gain of what if it does transition [to slicks], what if we can get to the end? It’s an absolute fact that to have had a chance of racing at the end we would have needed to come in earlier for inters.

“The question is whether we would have done it or whether we would always been looking at how much more we can gain. I don’t know.”

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2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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15 comments on “Ocon’s non-stop strategy shows pitting Hamilton was correct call – Mercedes”

  1. Instead of forcing Pérez left from the bollard Lewis should have gone there himself… but that’s wisdom after the fact.

  2. People are talking about this as if the question is whether Mercedes should have brought in Hamilton or not. It seems to me more should they have known to bring him in earlier than they did, giving him an opportunity to get through the graining phase and pass Leclerc and maybe Perez on the track? It was a gamble either way, and something it’s not easy to know the answer to without the power of hindsight.

    1. I believe Hamilton stayed out as long as he did because he wanted to stay out that long. I was sort of surprised he even argued about it because at the last race Lando chose to stay out when he should have pitted. If you follow team orders and the team get it wrong they you can blame everyone else, if you don’t follow team orders and get it wrong then you can only blame yourself.

    2. They of course knew about inters-to-slick graining on a drying track, and already had Bottas’ tyres to compare to and could assume Hamilton’s were probably worse. That’s of course partly why they called him in.

      The gamble was to go until the end or hope that track would dry for slicks.

  3. Second race in a row that Red Bull made the best strategy calls.

    1. Indeed, was surprised it was the right call, felt it was too early, but then I saw it was low risk high reward since he only lost 1 place when he came out.

  4. Honestly looking at that lap time chart I don’t agree with Shovlin. You can see Ocon was starting to drop off early with Hamilton instead managing to maintain his lap times. Ocon and Hamilton have different driving styles and different cars, and looking at those times I still think they should have kept him out, but we’ll never know I guess.

    1. Absolutely, agree with this: look at the graining phase, which lasts for 3-4 laps at 7 laps to go, he could’ve done those laptimes on old inters, maybe would’ve lost a bit more in the end, but still less than a pit stop, and hamilton is hamilton on tyre management.

    2. Agreed, Hamilton was managing his tires way better than Ocon who still managed to nurse his car home dispite flat spotting the front tires. I think hamilton would have brought the car home in at least 4th position.

      The pit should have antiscipated Hamilton questioning the call to Pit and had clear answers for him, such as the tires wont last, or his rivals will also pit, or that he will need time for the new tire to run in. These should have been the ready answers when Hamilton question the call the Box. Instead they went away to think about it. wasting time when eventually Lewis was forced to pit.

      Hamilton will always question these calls when the reasons aren’t made obvious to him.

  5. I was under the impression that Hamilton could have put Verstappen under a lot of pressure had he not stopped. Verstappen was quite slow and seemed to have same problems with his car aswell.

    I found the communication from Mercedes lacking the moment they started to discuss the scenario to keep on driving on the old tires.

    Room for improvement all around.

    P.s. could you next time or even amend the graph so there are 3 distinct colors. Using grey and a slightly lighter grey doesn’t make it easy to read, neither in dark or light mode.

    1. You could be right. However Ver said that he was cruising around, had difficulties to stay awake.

  6. Mercedes made the right call, it’s Lewis not coming in when the team said Box box box that made the next 25 laps a mess.

  7. The decision was correct but the time was off by 10 laps at least.
    Also imagine if Hamilton stayed till the end, how much worse his tyres would had been of the hard pushing that he drived them in all the race.

  8. Did Lewis make up the time of the pit stop?
    Not according to the graph above.
    The only questions that remains are whether the tyres would have gone off even more, and whether the guys catching him could have overtaken him.
    That’s ignoring the obvious undercut of Checo who was just slowing Lewis down so Max had time to stop.

  9. Hamilton disagrees with you Shovlin

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