George Russell, Mercedes, Miami International Autodrome, 2022

The advice from Mercedes which persuaded Hamilton not to make Safety Car pit stop “gamble”

2022 Miami Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton explained why he decided not to make an extra pit stop during the Safety Car period in the Miami Grand Prix.

Parts of Hamilton’s radio conversation with his team were played during yesterday’s race broadcast which showed the world champion discussing whether to use the opportunity to change his tyres. He decided not to.

Hamilton had already made his one required tyre change before the Safety Car came out. His team mate George Russell used the interruption to make his tyre change and passed Hamilton following the restart.

Hamilton had the option to make an extra pit stop which would have dropped him behind Russell but also left him on fresher tyres. However the team’s strategist James Vowles advised him on the radio that he should stay out.

“When you’re out there, you don’t have all the information,” Hamilton said after the race. “You don’t know where everyone is and where you’ll come out. You don’t have the picture that they have on the screen.

“So when you’re given the responsibility to make the decision, it feels like you’re gambling and I don’t like that. So I was like, ‘you guys make the decision’. But either way, we were just a bit unfortunate with the Safety Car today.”

The Mercedes drivers started the race on different tyre compound. Hamilton ran the medium, Russell opted for hard.

After the race Hamilton suspected he would have been better off starting on the other compound. “George obviously did a great job in that first stint,” he said. “He was on the better tyre to start with, the hard tyre was the best tyre.

“So in hindsight, maybe we could have started on the hard tyre. But again, he did a great job to recover from his position and get the points. So we got fifth and sixth today, it’s good points for the team.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said Hamilton was left “between a rock and a hard place” when the Safety Car came out. “The Safety Car clearly came out at a situation that wasn’t favourable for him and [was] favourable for George.

“George had a window, no one behind him, he was able to switch on a practically new medium [tyre]. And Lewis had to decide ‘do I keep the position on the hard, or do I go on a soft?’, which would have been also tricky.

“So that was probably a 50-50 decision and at the end it didn’t work out for him. But it’s not the first time that he’s been unlucky this season with the Safety Car.”

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Hamilton’s team radio during the Safety Car period

When the Safety Car came out Hamilton had done less than half as many laps on his set of hard tyres than Russell ahead of him:

BonningtonSo have incident exit turn
BonningtonSo VSC, VSC.
BonningtonSo keep delta positive. Keep on that delta. Go strat mode one.
BonningtonIncident exit turn nine. So staying out, staying out. Incident turn eight, between turn eight and turn nine.
BonningtonStay tight on the delta, tight on the delta
BonningtonMake sure you stay on top of the PU cooling.
BonningtonSo there’s debris all over exit turn eight so just pick your way through.
BonningtonSo car is stopped on the left-hand side but debris everywhere.
HamiltonTyres at risk?
BonningtonSo Safety Car, Safety Car.
BonningtonSo just let us know what you think about these tyres. We’ve got 16 laps remaining.
BonningtonSo George has pitted, he’s 12 seconds behind, he’s on a set of new hard. We would box and end up behind George. George was still posting green lap times on that hard tyre after 40 laps.
HamiltonHow many have I done?
Bonnington19, so you’re halfway though. He was still posting good times on hard.
HamiltonAnd that’s the only…
BonningtonI think once you wear the gauge down on them they look pretty look.
HamiltonIs he behind me then on new?

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After Russell pitted, Mercedes advised Hamilton that he would be better off staying out:

VowlesLewis it’s James, we advise staying out, but we’ll leave it to your decision, we have to make it now.
BonningtonHe’s on medium.
HamiltonI’m going to be at a disadvantage, aren’t I?
BonningtonYou’ve got Perez on exit. So delta.
HamiltonSo who is directly behind me?
BonningtonIt’s going to be George and then Ocon.
HamiltonHow much faster is that tyre?
BonningtonWe think probably three, four tenths but this tyre seems to work better when it’s got a bit of gauge of it. We have one more chance to pit if you think you want to do it.
BonningtonSo Perez…
HamiltonYou tell me man, don’t leave it to me. Do you think I can… I don’t want to lose a position.
BonningtonOkay, recommend staying out.
HamiltonI will lose the position to George [unclear]
HamiltonIs there damage on the back of my car?
BonningtonWe don’t think so.
HamiltonThere’s an AlphaTauri behind me?
BonningtonAffirm, a lap down, car is backmarker.
BonningtonGo HPP3 position four. You have a little bit more margin on the brakes if you want to wake that front up.
BonningtonSo marshals still clearing debris at the incident. Do what you can just to keep the PU cool.
BonningtonThose brakes look better now.
BonningtonSo lapped cars may now overtake, it’s just Tsunoda car behind.
BonningtonJust remember 10 car lengths.
BonningtonSo Safety Car is going to be in this lap.

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24 comments on “The advice from Mercedes which persuaded Hamilton not to make Safety Car pit stop “gamble””

  1. I was hoping for Hamilton to pit, if just to break the monotony. But best case scenario they both get by Bottas on pace and finish where they did anyway. Maybe they could have hoped for a second SC to close up behind the leaders again but it would have to have been in the next couple of laps. They are just slow and the cars they are racing are each other and the midfielders ahead. They are not racing Ferrari and RBR with any kind of tires on.

    1. I bet there was a big, unstated factor in not pitting Lewis for tires immediately or on the second opp, which = high odds of both MBs potentially wiping out the odds or at minimum some really “problematic” battling between GR and LH.

      They wouldn’t have realistically been racing anyone else. Maybe they’d have had to make 1 or 2 easy passes if they had pitted both right away.

    2. No, no, Mikey no! Merc is traumatised to pit, at least it was not super clear this time.

  2. So when you’re given the responsibility to make the decision, it feels like you’re gambling and I don’t like that.

    Isn’t this the core of the problem? I’d say (but I’m no racing driver) you should the pit wall to not put you back into (the wrong) traffic, so if they leave you the choice they must have seen that either option is a viable one?

  3. I think Hamilton is right – in circumstances like these the team should be making the calls and it isn’t fair to leave it up to the driver.

    In other cases, such as when you’re nearing the crossover for wet/dry tyres, the driver’s feedback is obviously key. But in this case, Hamilton was obviously able to go to the end and the choice to change tyres was purely about whether he could recover enough track position to make it worthwhile. The driver is never going to be able to make that calculation without being able to see all the gaps and performance info the team have. So why ask him in the first place?

    1. @red-andy They were covering themselves. They knew he wasn’t going to keep George behind either way but if Ham chooses then a) he loses track position because he chose it himself or b) he loses it on track because he again chose not to pit. At least with new softs he had a chance of getting fastest lap.

  4. 16 lap old hards are only 0.4sec per lap faster than new Mediums? That was clearly not true, even if you remove warm up laps which were required after SC restart… so Ham was making a choice based on poor information.

  5. It’s simple. Weather tyre call, driver responsibility. Stoppage of race, team responsibility. Vowles even advised Hamilton to stay out. I think he was not worried about Russell, but more on behind since he was told that the hard tyre was actually better (no surprise, the hard tyre appeared to be in hindsight the best tyre for this race). Probably they shouod have gambled on a soft tyre, but looking back, perhaps they made the right decision. Softs probably would have overheated in this temperature.

  6. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    9th May 2022, 13:02

    I have a couple of questions:

    Could Mercedes not have brought in Russell and Hamilton on the same lap and then swapped thereby keeping position?
    Could they not have brought him on the next lap put him on softs and, again, swapped with Russell if Hamilton came out behind him?

    The commentators said that the Mercedes pit brought tyres out on 2 laps.

    1. Anon A. Mouse
      9th May 2022, 14:13

      Mercedes brought tires out for Lewis on consecutive laps to keep their options open, as they were leaving the decision to box up to him. There was still a window to pit the second time by. As far as orchestrating a swap between George and Lewis, even though this sport isn’t about fairness – it wouldn’t have been a fair decision to George. As Lewis points out, George did a good job extending the first stint. Aside from the clumsy contact between Gasly and Norris, the tail end of that race was shaping up to be uneventful. But with most Safety Cars, there’s winners and losers. Lewis lost out again this season.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        9th May 2022, 14:57

        But I believe the conversation centered on position. Could Mercedes have pitted Lewis at any time during VSC prior to SC without losing position?

        Russell did pretty well – he only lost 2 spots and was only a few seconds ahead of Lewis.

        1. Anon A. Mouse
          9th May 2022, 15:21

          If I recall correctly, no. He would have lost position either way.

    2. Before the incident RUS was P5, BOT P6, HAM P7. Then HAM was about 15s in front of RUS when he could have pit the lap after RUS. But SC was just deployed and cars were still bunching, so he would have come out behind RUS. Anyways pitting would have been an option, but anyways P5 and P6 were the optimum result for Merc.

      SC was good for RUS, who had the opportunity for the gamble, as he started on hards. Lap 32 – 42 was the perfect SC window for him, like lap 15 – 25 would have been perfect for those who started on mediums.

    3. So in your scenario, whichever way Russ just lets Ham through? That’s just mean Bro. Russ is doing a stonking job for Merc this year.

  7. They finished 5th and 6th so what would have been the differance for MB if they had pitted Lewis? George anticipated on the SC and got what he wanted. I think for MB this was the safe call because there was not much to gain.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      9th May 2022, 14:58

      @grapmg being overtaken by your fellow driver twice is hardly a good outcome for the team or Lewis :-) It’s debatable if it’s good for George either.

      1. Any teammate on fresh softer tires should be able to overtake his teammate. Only the wingman would have been held back by his team, but any other team would have done the same.

  8. It would of made sence to pit but it really did not affect the result. If he had pitted he would of still come out behind russell as George was in front and would of had the fresher tyres to pass Bottas. He chose not to pit and managed to get pass Bottas due to Bottas mistake and George even though behind him on much fresher tyres was inevitteble that he would of got passed him.

  9. Alonso proved it was a tenable move with older hard tires. He lost no positions. Only the safety car which cut down huge time gaps paired with one legit time penalty and then a second totally BS time penalty cost him.

  10. Hamilton was 13,7 seconds in front of Russell when the later came out of the pits under VSC, not 12. That’s the first timing gap that appears on screen the moment Russell leaves the pit lane, I guess that is what counts. Of course, the delta varies second by second during VSC but should overall be kept the same.

    Pitting under VSC cost around 16 secs, so pitting under full safety car (which would βε the case for Hamilton) would cost less and there was a significant possibility Hamilton would come out still in front of Russell if he made a pit for softs. Wolff called it a 50-50 chance.

    Furthermore , judging from the transcript, Hamilton was not clearly informed from the beginning that Russell would be the car behind him if he stayed out, nor was he initially told that Russell was on fresh mediums. Bono told him that Russell had fitted new hards (which would not make sense given Russell’s starting tyre but that is something Hamilton would probably not instantly consider in the heat of the moment).

    In such a scenario it is the team’s responsibilty to make an instant choice for Hamilton (as the parameters are more than those a driver can judge from the cockpit). Hamilton’s only real chance would be to fit softs and possibly still come out in front of Russell. I dont know what would be possible if he came out of a pit stop behind Russell with softs. He was definitely doomed with the old hards vs Russell’s fresh mediums (I remember Bono confirming that to Hamilton in a team radio broadcasted live).

    So it appears that Hamilton was misinformed during a critical period and that the team probably did not make the right choice for him, even if it did not pay off in the end. That is my understanding from the information I have available.

  11. First, congrats to Mercedes pit crew as they actually performed well this week. Will see if this is a trend or not.
    Lewis “I’m never pitting if it means losing a position” Hamilton is in for a long season. He spent too many years in the rocket sled that was the Mercedes car. His experiences in those cars are established in his thinking and he bases decisions on those experiences instead of the current situation. RUS on the other hand, spent the last few years having a completely different experience which leads him to take more chances as the Mercedes is bad but it is still better than any car Russel has driven.

  12. All a moot point really. At this stage all that is important for the team is maximising points. They finished p5 and p6 which is best scenario in current situation. Leaving one driver on older tyres was possibly better for them to avoid them racing too hard and potentially crashing out. Once they sort the car out Hamilton will be on it again but for now Russell has more recent experience handling tricky cars

  13. I don’t understand Mercedes’ strategic thinking. That crash looked straightaway that it was going to bring SC, so they have to be prepared for this scenario that the cars will bunch up, and as much as possible pit for fresher tyres. That should have been a straightforward call to pit Lewis and bold on faster tyres. There was enough a gap to not have to stack the two cars in the pit. So both Mercedes drivers would have come out on better tyres to attack Bottas and Perez, and Lewis would have most likely kept his position to George.

    I get the impression that Mercedes’ strategists, especially on Lewis’ side of the garage, are still in the mindset of victory and title contenders. They need to be a bit more agile and aggressive with strategy, if Lewis is to maintain his unique record of having at least 1 race win in every season he’s competed.

  14. The thing is george shldnt even be in lewis safety car window having started 6 places back. George did a great job keeping up.

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