Mercedes’ victory chance ended when Verstappen passed Leclerc – Wolff

2022 United States Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says he knew Lewis Hamilton’s chances of winning the United States Grand Prix were over before Max Verstappen caught and passed him.

Hamilton took the lead of yesterday’s race after long-time leader Verstappen was badly delayed by a slow pit stop. Verstappen was six seconds behind Hamilton when he rejoined, and had to pass the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc to catch the Mercedes.

Wolff felt the team had a chance to win their first race of the season. “When they were six seconds behind him, and it felt like they can’t really eke out enough, I felt that [we could win],” he said.

But there were still 17 laps to go once Verstappen passed Leclerc. The Red Bull driver was within five seconds of Hamilton and on medium compound tyres to the race leader’s hards. Wolff said from that moment he expected Verstappen would catch and pass Hamilton.

“Lewis had a tyre deficit on the hard because we simply didn’t have any mediums anymore,” said Wolff. “And still holding on to a potential win felt feasible at that stage. But then once Max was past Charles and he couldn’t fight back, I think it was just waiting for it to happen.

Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2022
Gallery: 2022 United States Grand Prix in pictures
Hamilton said there was no way he could keep Verstappen behind once the Red Bull driver got within DRS range.

“They’ve been so fast on the straight,” he said. “Under DRS they’re like 35kph faster than us. If we’re behind them, we’re like, 22kph faster, I think it is, with DRS on the back straight. So he came from a long, long way back.

“But even without the DRS, I think they’re still something like 8kph up on us, so we’ve got a lot of time being lost on the straight, probably four tenths at least a lap. So we’ve got some improvements to make for next year’s car.”

However Hamilton admitted he briefly thought his first win of the season might be possible. “For a second I thought maybe we might just be able to hold on to it but I think that extra medium tyre they had was just a little bit too strong compared to us.”

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2022 United States Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
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28 comments on “Mercedes’ victory chance ended when Verstappen passed Leclerc – Wolff”

  1. His moving under braking trying to prevent max from passing was disputable.
    His hard tires actually gave him and advantage because until that moment nobody succeeded in using the medium tire under full attack as long as Verstappen did.(20 laps!)
    Yes the Red Bull was the faster car but like in AD lewis opened the door on the inside and was surprised by the action. When he reacted, it was over the braking limit and thus not allowed.
    But all in all a very nice race.
    Spiced up by the pitstop.

    1. It was clear to most people with any sense that Max had much better car at that stage, including on the straights and he would overtake, whichever way Lewis forced him.
      If Lewis went for the inside, Max could go that much more longer before having to brake and have the option to abort the overtake and run wide in case of going too fast. Lewis on the inside with less grip from the tires and a tighter line would have to brake much earlier than Max and just be easily driven around in the next few corners.
      The way Lewis decided to go, Max had to brake earlier and go deeper into the corner to block Lewis off. Then if tires could cope with it, Lewis having better line and earlier acceleration out of the corner could do the switcheroo on Max, just like Leclerc did. That was his only chance against Max.
      Lewis could see by the lap times he didn’t have the grip Max had. So no chance of keeping him behind by blocking the corner on the inside and then just out-accelerating Max.
      I’d rather “give up” a corner with a chance of taking it back, vs putting up a fight with no chance of defending it.

      1. Max braked later then normal. Thus the great speed difference.
        It still was a surprise for lewis (again). Its not only the greater speed on the straights but also the driver that makes the difference here.

        1. About braking later and speed difference. Yeah, because the red-bull (in the hands of Max) is 0.5 sec/lap faster than the Merc, so the car enables him to do that. And I hardly doubt that Lewis was surprised here. He went into that corner knowing that Max was going to overtake him. That is why he went to the outside, to have even a small chance of trying the swithcheroo. Because he knew that was his only chance left. And a small one at that.
          I believe Max and Lewis are few of the greatest F1 drivers of all time. So they know what to do in any situation much better than either of us ever will.

      2. @renee, Lewis set purple S1 on lap 53, which stayed purple till the end, even faster than Russell on brand new soft tyres. Didn’t look like Lewis had no grip. His pace deficit was not more than 0,3s per lap on medium all race. He was even marginally faster when both were on hards, as it was often the case before.

    2. he had nothing else to do. Red Bull was flaying past left or right.

      The only thing this W13 has going for it is the decent pace it has, it is very slow on the straitghts making defense and overtaking more difficult than it needs to be. Whereas to overtake a Red Bull Leclerc had to resort to a dive bomb on the very last moment possible.

    3. Yes the Red Bull was the faster car

      @sethje you basically summed it up right there.

    4. I love the hipocracy of RB saying Lewis moved under breaking. Wasn’t there someone else who used to do this a few years back and then tried to pass it off as completely normal behaviour…! Hhhmmm, now who could that be.

      1. @millionus – He did but only for a short distance and Max was at a much bigger distance so nothing could happen.

    5. He did a Verstappen move on Verstappen..

      All was great. Good chance of victory, but I’ll be surprised if Hamilton wins a race this year.

      1. Mercedes could do it, the question is can they afford that win.

        If they bought a brand new engine for mexico but then didn’t burn it out, even retire it from the race, or practice,
        they would then have a brand new engine for Brazil where Hamilton has always done well. Brazil is less about the high speed strights and more about race craft and judgement.

        I just dont think Mercedes have it in them to roll that dice.

        1. In brazil top speed is very important, just think about last year’s race, the only way hamilton managed to make a move stick on verstappen was passing him before the straight ended, so I don’t see it happen this year in normal circumstances with their weak top speed.

  2. The Red Bull driver was within five seconds of Hamilton and on soft tyres to the race leader’s mediums

    Nope, it was mediums for the Red Bull, and hards for the then-leader. The only time the softs appeared in the race was when Russell pitted for the fastest lap attempt.

  3. It was inevitable, the Red Bull car is so dominant, it’s the Mercedes’ dominance of 2014-2020 all over again. Thankfully we have Ferrari in the mix again but as a moving chicane if anything. Really unfortunate that Carlos lost it in the first corner tangle with George, he missed out on a great race.

    1. Just remember when Sainz set the pole in Spa after Verstappen’s grid drop to 14th and he still knew it would be very difficult to win, that’s domination for you.
      19 races in, everybody now knows Red Bull is a sunday car, it has been since the first race, but we always expected Ferrari to do a Meulboune performance again but that never happened.

      Bahrain, Australia, and Austria, these were the only races Ferrari was indeed the faster car. All others, was Red Bull, or in a few, to close to call, in which Ferrarri only won Silvertone, with the wrong car.

      1. I agree that RB is the faster car on Sundays but it’s not that they are miles ahead of Ferrari. The straight line speed in combination with the DRS makes it look dominant but I doubt that Perez would have won the race if he was in 3th behind Leclerc after that bad pitstop instead of Max.

        1. Not in Austin, perhaps, but there have been races where even Pérez could finish in front of Leclerc and Verstappen has indeed been literal miles ahead of the Ferrari. In other cases we just won’t know because there is no point to going as fast as Verstappen did at Suzuka. Building a gap like that is usually pointless.

          Ferrari has made a very fast qualifying car this year. But it takes more out of the tyres than Red Bull and (depending on the compound – especially) Mercedes, so it usually fades in the latter part of a stint. It also has poor top speed, making defending nearly impossible and overtaking very hard.

          It’s been the second best car this year, with only one or two races where it was outright the best but also a couple of races where Mercedes was probably better.

          1. Winning in the rain with 30 + sec gap is great though, a reminder of some schumacher-hamilton-senna wet races!

    2. This RedBull is nowhere near as dominant as the Mercs were 2014-2020.
      They aren’t turning their engines down to hide pace for a start, rarely get a comfortable 1-2 and more often than not get out-qualified by Ferrari.

      1. How do you know what they are doing?

        1. I’m only guessing, but if they could turn the engines up more I’d assume they would turn Perez’ up. That’s unless they are also sacrificing race positions to hide pace too.

      2. I don’t like the 2014-2020 generalisation, I would say it’s not as dominant as 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020, but certainly more so than 2017 and 2018.

        1. That’s true. I just couldn’t be bothered to type all the individual years out. :)

  4. It seems like RB have taken a leaf out of MB book and are concealing the true pace of the car.

  5. What about this one? Hamilton in the 2nd SC phase. The distance between him and verstappen looks more than ten cars. No note, no investigation, no nothing –

    1. Aw, I looked at the image you posted and wondered how you were judging the distance? Anyone who has used a dashcam with a wide angle lens will be aware that distances on camera often look much greater than the distances seen by our own eyes. Looking at the track, there appears to be about nine fence sections between the two cars, and a fence section is about the same length as a car. They are going past a truck on track so it is more important there to have your eyes on the truck and safety crew than on the car in front. You also cannot judge these things from a static shot. Maybe there was a violation, maybe it was Max going too fast. Even if both cars were being driven correctly, if Max has cleared the truck and sped up, but Lewis has to wait until he passes the truck, the gap will increase momentarily. You do need context, not a static shot.

  6. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    25th October 2022, 15:24

    Yeah the pace of the Red Bull is unbelievable. They are much faster in corners and much faster on the straights. With the cost cap issue looming, they are clearly attempting to set records with a bit of effort.

    1. They are slower in most corners not only compared with Ferrari, but also with Mercedes, who run with huge amount of wing compared with both rival teams.

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