Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2021

Radio transcript: How Hamilton’s plan to delay his pit stop backfired

2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton played a decisive role in the strategy call which likely cost him a higher finishing position in the Turkish Grand Prix.

Having made his way up to fifth on a damp track early in the race, Hamilton urged his team not to bring him into the pits when the drivers ahead of him began switching to fresh intermediate tyres from lap 36.

As Hamilton explained, he expected the track would dry out sufficiently that everyone would need to pit for slicks later in the race. He hoped to keep his intermediates alive until then.

Those who switched to fresh intermediate initially experienced a long period of graining which slowed them down. After that the tyres came good and their lap times began to fall.

But once the likes of Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and others had been through that phase, it soon became clear Hamilton’s decision was not going to pay off.

Hamilton’s complete radio communications from lap 32

LapVoiceMessage
32BonningtonSo Alonso exiting the pits now. He’s going to be five seconds ahead.
32HamiltonAre we racing Alonso?
32BonningtonNegative.
32HamiltonWhat tyre is he on?
32BonningtonAlonso has taken new inter. We’ll keep you updated how that looks.

Fernando Alonso, a lap down following a pair of incidents at the start, was one of the first drivers to pit for a second set of intermediate tyres. He came out of the pits a short distance ahead of Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2021
While Hamilton battled Perez he lost time to Verstappen
Once that situation had been explained to Hamilton his radio fell silent for the next few laps while he closed in on Sergio Perez. He tried to pass the Red Bull, but was unsuccessful, and lost around five seconds to the cars ahead.

This meant he had fallen out of Verstappen’s pit window – i.e., far enough behind that his championship rival could pit and come out ahead. Red Bull quickly brought Verstappen in to put him on a new set of intermediates and keep his position ahead of Hamilton on the track.

Hamilton told his team to bring him in before Perez to “undercut” him, but this proved impossible, as the Red Bull driver came in the next time he reached the pit lane entrance. Hamilton was therefore still out on his original intermediates while both Red Bull drivers had taken new rubber.

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37BonningtonSo the traffic on exit of pit lane, Verstappen leaving the pits, new inter.
37BonningtonSo Verstappen two seconds ahead.
37HamiltonHow’s he come out ahead?
37BonningtonYeah Lewis so we dropped a chunk of time just battling with Perez.
37HamiltonMake sure we undercut Perez, yeah?
37BonningtonWe do have traffic in our pit window.
38HamiltonTyre is okay.
38BonningtonCopy that Lewis. We’ve got Vettel on medium, he is struggling.
38HamiltonYeah, we’re a while away.
38BonningtonSo Vettel car ahead on medium, he is struggling.
38HamiltonI can’t see my right rear so you check it out.
38BonningtonCopy, we’ll have a look.
39BonningtonSo Alonso ahead is traffic. Right-rear looks okay from pictures.

Unsure whether the track would dry out sufficiently for slicks, Mercedes were now in a position where it seemed the only way they could gain a strategic advantage over Red Bull was to stay out.

“The track was drying, we didn’t know when it would dry or if it wouldn’t,” said Hamilton. “We [didn’t] know if it was going to dry or not, but it was slowly getting drier.”

“We could have maybe stopped earlier,” he added, “maybe when I caught Perez maybe we could have could have stopped. But at that point, you just had no idea if it would have been dry or not.”

40BonningtonBlue flags for Alonso. Verstappen the car ahead of him. Verstappen doing a 35.0.
40HamiltonIt’s hard to keep temperature in these ones.
40BonningtonOkay copy
40BonningtonSo Leclerc currently P1, he hasn’t stopped. He’s 15 seconds up the road and going to try and run to the end.
40HamiltonWho’s that?
40BonningtonLeclerc.

Race leader Valtteri Bottas also pitted around the same time. This temporarily promoted Charles Leclerc into the lead.

Mercedes called Hamilton in three laps after his team mate, but he was eager to press on in the hope of gaining a strategy advantage by staying out. He remained convinced the track conditions would improve enough for slicks to be an option.

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41BonningtonLeclerc at 34.6. Valtteri 34.0.
41BonningtonBox, box. Box, box.
41HamiltonWhy?
41BonningtonNew inter is the way to go. Under threat from Gasly…
41HamiltonI don’t think it is, man.
42HamiltonIs it much quicker?
42BonningtonWe have Ricciardo 33.5.
42BonningtonWe also have Gasly coming into our window mid-33s.
42HamiltonIt feels like we should stay out, man.
42BonningtonOkay, we’ll stay out one more lap. Give us a bit more thinking time.
43HamiltonNot far off dries.
43BonningtonOkay copy Lewis we won’t react yet. Just keep in mind Gasly is five seconds outside our pit window.
43HamiltonWe’re just going to lose a lot of time.
43BonningtonCopy. We’re staying out, staying out. So Perez 15 seconds behind, he’s a 34.8 so no threat at the moment.
44HamiltonOkay. For sure the grip’s not great, but it’s drying up.

On lap 46 Bottas passed Leclerc and the Ferrari driver succumbed to the inevitable, pitting for fresh intermediates. That put Hamilton third, but Mercedes were beginning to realise it couldn’t last.

“I was third at one stage and hopeful that I would miss a stop,” Hamilton explained. “[When] everyone else did that inter switch, I was hopeful that if there was another one for slicks that would gain me positions.”

45BonningtonSo we’ve got 14 laps remaining.
45BonningtonLast lap Perez was a 34.9. Gasly 34 [unclear].
45HamiltonWill these tyres last ’til the end?
46HamiltonIt’s drying up.
46BonningtonCopy Lewis, yeah we’re just debating if these will last into the dry.
46BonningtonLeclerc a 35.5, looks like he’s beginning to struggle a little.
46BonningtonTsunoda ahead is traffic.
46BonningtonPerez was a 34.5, Gasly 35.0.

Perhaps Mercedes were hoping that Esteban Ocon, the only other driver still running on his original set of intermediates, would dive for the pits, fit slicks, and begin reeling off quick lap times. But he stayed out until the end.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2021
Hamilton’s pit stop prevented him losing more positions
Finally Mercedes realised Hamilton’s tyres were dropping off at a rate which threatened to drop him even lower than the fifth place he’d been in before the Red Bull drivers pitted. On lap 50 he was told that crucial threshold had been reached.

“Suddenly we were seeing that those places that we lost by doing the stop, we were going to lose anyway on track, to Perez and to Charles” explained the team’s head of trackside operations Andrew Shovlin. “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. Prior to all that, we were running fifth, at the end of it we were running fifth because those two scenarios of ‘it transitions to dry’ or ‘you can get to the end’ didn’t look realistic.”

48BonningtonSo Leclerc has pitted, Leclerc has pitted. So now P3, 11 laps remaining.
48BonningtonSo Perez is 13.5 behind, last lap was a 33.7.
49BonningtonAnd Lewis if you could update us on the tyres.
49HamiltonI mean, I’m sliding around but it’s okay so far.
49BonningtonOkay copy.
50BonningtonOkay Lewis we’re just monitoring the gaps, we’ve got Gasly doing 33.6, we’re still three seconds safe to him.
50BonningtonOkay Lewis so we think we should box this lap, this will be our last chance before we lose the gap to Gasly. We’ve got eight laps to go.
50HamiltonAre you sure? Okay.
50BonningtonOkay copy, box box, we have you pit confirm.
50HamiltonThis lap’s pretty good.
51BonningtonOkay just caution with the white line on exit.
51BonningtonSo Gasly at three behind, three behind, six ahead to Perez.

Having had Verstappen in his sights at one stage, Hamilton was obviously frustrated at dropping back again. He had been eager to stay out on his original tyres. “It was frustrating at the time because obviously I could see second and then all of a sudden I’m back in fifth,” he admitted.

51HamiltonShit man, why’d you give up that space?
51BonningtonIt looks like we were going to lose the position anyway. That’s just six seconds ahead to Perez and Leclerc.
51BonningtonSo 34.6. Fastest lap is a 31.9.
52BonningtonWe think this’ll be a good lap for fastest lap so you can take strat five if you need it.
53HamiltonWhat position am I in, man?
53BonningtonCurrently P5. Leclerc was a 36.0 last lap.
53HamiltonWe shouldn’t have come in, man.
53HamiltonGot massive graining, man. I told you.
54BonningtonOkay copy, Lewis. We were losing time to Perez but we’ll chat about it later. Got Gasly car behind 1.7.
54BonningtonGasly at one second.
54HamiltonLeave it alone, man.
58BonningtonOkay Lewis so one more lap, it’ll be strat mode five.
59BonningtonSo that’s P5. Sorry about that but we’ll have a chat to you, talk you through the call. Strat mode one please.

2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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37 comments on “Radio transcript: How Hamilton’s plan to delay his pit stop backfired”

  1. Yes it was a good try wasn’t it. A racy try, that didn’t work out. At the time I thought the team had been too timid bringing him in, but it looks like it was the best thing after all. Between Hamilton and the team, it was a positive play in fact, that could have been epic but just wasn’t on the day.

  2. So hard to decide what to do under those conditions, new tyres being slower than older ones, track not drying out, laps passing by, not being able to “test” your theory in #2 driver cause he leads the race….Impossible situation

    1. What do you mean? they had already pitted Valteri and he was flying.

  3. Track surface and these tyres made this difficult situation. Bono should have told Lewis that he would lose position to Perez and Leclerc, not just Gasly.

  4. Was there ever a grand prix race beforr where a driver didnt have any pitstops? Or is Ocon the first ever?

    1. Many drivers have gone a whole race without changing tyres. In fact in 2005 they all did as the rules banned tyre changes for any reason other than replacing a damaged one.

    2. The entire grid didn’t do any pitstop at Belgium 2021.

      Also, Stroll at Monza 2020, Grosjean at Australia 2016 made no racing pitstops but changed tyres under red flags only.

      1. Changing tires during red flag is done in pits. Even if the SC drives trough the pitlane because of hazards on the main straight the boards will count it as a pits visit. So those werent exactly non-pitstop rqces. Belgium is the race that we won’t talk about. Also, there were multiple pits visits during that ehm… demo.

        But Salo in 1997 i didnt remember, so ocon isnt a first to do so in the modern f1. Didnt know about that before 1980, thabks for the info. History is an integral pqrt of fun and interest for this sport

    3. Up until the 1980s a pitstop was more often than not considered to repair a broken car.
      Even doh Fangio was the first to pit intentionally for fuel in 1957, it wasn’t until 1982 that Brabham made it commonplace.

      Just for the FIA to ban the procedure a season later.
      Making pitstops is a relatively modern thing to F1.

      1. Mika Salo GP Monaco in 1997 was the last driver not to pit

    4. Salo at Monaco somewhere in the late ’90’s

  5. “The thing was, a fresh set of inters would eventually be around 2/2.5s per lap faster than an old set. But you needed to bed them in gently for 4-5 laps first (making undercutting a non-starter), like Perez had done after pitting on lap 37. Not like how Leclerc would do as he tried to catch Hamilton and not like an angry Hamilton would do a few laps later as he rejoined to discover that he’d surrendered a place to Leclerc.

    If you nailed them on the out-lap on a drying track like Leclerc and Hamilton did, they would instantly grain the right-rear and you’d have a dire lack of rear grip for many laps.”

    Above is from “The Race” and is by far is the best write up I have read on why Leclerc and Hamilton should have pitted earlier. This together with Ocon’s account that he doubts he would have made it another lap, he finished 1 lap down. Ocon also lost a lot of time as lap times improved at the end of the race while he was unable to speed up, losing 40-50 seconds by staying out versus 20 seconds for a pitstop and maybe 5-10 seconds for slowly heating his inters.

  6. The crucial decision point was the encounter with Perez.
    I know hindsight is 20-20, but I suspected it was going to be very difficult to get past Perez, as Redbull were prepared to throw away his race just to make Hamilton lose time. That was the best time to pit.

    1. He nonetheless impressed me there, remember bottas vs verstappen usually, if you don’t have racecraft you can’t stop verstappen\hamilton, perez is better in this sense, but worse in a lot of ways, than bottas.

    2. RedBull prepared to throw away his race? I saw the opposite and was quite surprised they pitted him while he was holding up Lewis. I couldn’t believe they actually stopped Perez from slowing down Lewis. But the strategists at RB had it right. What I do not understand is why if Perez goes for a stop you would let Lewis out. Well actually they didn’t, he made the call himself. That was probably a bit arrogant indicating he (in his opinion) was not racing Perez. The team should have given him some more insight into the race unfolding or simply stand their ground.

      1. I think RedBull were certain that Lewis will try to undercut Perez in the pits, so they made the move to pit first. That’s why I think they didn’t want to stay out longer.

  7. Finally Mercedes realised Hamilton’s tyres were dropping off at a rate which threatened to drop him even lower than the fifth place he’d been in before the Red Bull drivers pitted. On lap 50 he was told that crucial threshold had been reached.

    It wasn’t really Hamilton’s tires dropping off, rather other drivers going faster as their intermediates finally came to life. Still I’m puzzled why he wanted to go to slicks. Last year the track was even drier and no-one changed to slicks because those worn intermediates very much behaved like slicks and they offered more grip as the compound was softer.

  8. Looks like no one at fault. But it shows that every drivers need a Bono.

  9. What I do not get is the stray 5 setting he could use to set the fastest lap.
    It is not allowed to increase the power, only decrease for safety reasons.
    He ended on strat one.
    So what’s happening here?

    1. He probably qualified on Strat 5 and was running a lower engine mode at the time of the radio message. They are allowed to go lower on the power modes.

        1. there is no one engine mode @erikje, there are multiple modes available, what changed was once the modes set up, engine tuning options couldnt be changed from quali to race… there is always a lot of engine modes, once set up, they will not able allowed thats all… mercedes had a very aggressive one lap setting for quali and only in quali it would be used, for race they had moderate modes available….

          “Typically there are several – up to nine – modes in between the two extremes.” (quali – race).

          Mercedes removed the quali settings (settings from available modes) every race weekend. It doesnt mean there isnt multiple modes/settings, it is not allowed to add/remove after quali, kind of parc ferme situation.

  10. I felt Hamilton should have pitted earlier (effectively before Max). The risk of a tyre failure was always there, so they had to pit, and that means giving enough time to make use of the new inters (allowing for graining). When Mercedes go into conservative (do nothing) mode it always seems worse.
    Still it wasn’t a huge points loss to MV in the end.

  11. A tale of 2 races.
    Russia: Norris slated for not pitting when the team suggested; Hamilton lauded for listening to his team.
    Turkey: Hamilton arguing against teams suggestion to pit.

  12. Big Lewis fan here: it definitely backfired on him. The team has gotten him out of a lot of jams through strategy. He’s just got to trust them more when it comes to the strat. Right after the race he knew he messed up so hopefully it’ll be better in the future

    1. Correct, trust the team for strategy completely, especially a guy like Bono. Driving lights out one can’t make these decisions on the go, so always defer to the team.

      Now in other situations the driver knows best and he should make the call – this though went horribly wrong for Vettel on slicks and completely his fault. It didn’t suddenly start pouring in the 30seconds he went into the pits, just a bad decision on the part of the driver.

      1. Indeed, I heard some team radios that he wanted to go on slicks, however putting mediums was silly, at least try softs.

  13. The basic rule of thumb that Hamilton’s idol Senna used is that you need to be on the right tyres at the right time. Sounds over simplified but I think that’s what Bonno knew should happen when he asked Hamilton to pit the first time. Better to react to the current conditions than to wait for the conditions to change while losing time. There were two motivations for staying out 1) Doing the opposite to what Max and Valtteri did gave him the chance to win, rather than just securing a lower position 2) This exact strategy worked last year (but in that case the perfect conditions happened at the perfect time for Hamilton allowing him to win.)

  14. I love this style of article. Giving us the chat that we do not get live etc. Thanks.

    It is easy to blame Lewis for refusing the early call to pit, but you do not employ a driver of his calibre and then ignore his input during the race.
    Lewis is bloody good at tyre management and I would have trusted his call as well.

    We have had a couple of interesting races due to wet and slippery conditions.
    This is when the real drivers (not simply racers) come to the top in my opinion.

    1. Right because he’s good at tyre management I’d have gone till the end, I’m sure he’d have got p5, maybe p4 as well.

    2. I second this, really interesting perspective on how these decisions are being made.

    3. True.. probably the reason a driver made the right call twice and now is leading the championship.

  15. Well, Lando didn’t want to pit either, and Mercedes pit team won Hamilton the race.

    Here who knows, they costed him 1 place? What if rain intensified? 4 places? Hamilton needed those points.

    1. @jureo

      Hamilton needed those points.

      Not really with the current car advantage

      1. You always need points. Mercedes are well capable of messing this championship up.

  16. With the 20:20 vision of hindsight they should have pitted Hamilton as soon as he got within 1.5 seconds of Perez, and avoided any on-track racing with him. Any of the podium positions would have then been possible.

    1. Races are always won in hindsight…

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