Mercedes doubt tyre strategy cost Hamilton chance to beat Verstappen to win

2022 United States Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton did not miss a chance to win the United States Grand Prix because he couldn’t match Max Verstappen’s tyre choice for the final stint, Mercedes believe.

Having taken the lead when Verstappen was delayed by a slow pit stop, Hamilton saw his victory prospects slip away when the Red Bull driver passed him with six laps to go.

Verstappen left the pits following his final stop on the medium tyre compound, six seconds behind Hamilton on hard tyres. After passing Charles Leclerc, Verstappen closed on Hamilton, took the lead and won the race by over five seconds.

Hamilton queries the team’s choice of tyre compound for the final stint during the race. While Verstappen had a second set of mediums available, Hamilton did not.

Mercedes’ motorsport strategy director James Vowles explained their tyre strategy in a video released by the team. “The decision for what tyres we have in the race actually stems all the way back to the week before the race,” he said.

“In our case, what we’d highlighted is we thought the hard tyre, between the medium and the hard, would be the more useful compound. It certainly was the year prior and we thought the soft – as really turned out to be the case as well – would be too weak in the race.

“We made that decision before the race weekend started and part of the complication that you have is that you have to have enough soft tyres in qualifying to be able to get through successfully against the balance of enough race tyres to have a successful race.”

Using hard tyres for the final stint did not cost Hamilton a chance to win the race, Vowles believes. “I don’t think so, I think we have evidence from stint one of the race where we have both Lewis and Verstappen on that medium tyre – he pulled five seconds relative to us and in fact we started to fall off the degradation curve at the end of that stint.

“Our car simply on the day wasn’t quite on the pace he needed it to and the hard tyre whilst it was worse at the beginning of the stint actually provided quite a good sensible long stint against the medium. I think the truth is that we had a good shot at trying to win the race, we benefitted from a few circumstances that put us ahead but it wasn’t really the tyre choice that would have made the difference.”

Hamilton, the most successful driver in Formula 1 history, is yet to win a race in 2022 and now has three second place finishes to his name this season following his runner-up spot at Circuit of the Americas. There are three more opportunities this year for Mercedes to win a grand prix.

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2022 United States Grand Prix

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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16 comments on “Mercedes doubt tyre strategy cost Hamilton chance to beat Verstappen to win”

  1. I can’t say I’ve ever enjoyed the artificiality created by the need to use multiple tyre compounds etc, and don’t enjoy races where pitstops win or lose races. Even worse is the races where pit stops and safety car combine to decide the result.

    1. It was like those oval races in Nascar or Indycar. The right country for it.

    2. I actually enjoy all of it, It brings the pit Team into play during the race, this is a Team sport, so the involvement for me adds to the spectacle, Engineers, Strategists, Pit Crew, Driver, all part of the Team and all involved is perfect.

      1. I know this doesn’t work for fans who only see it as a drivers championship, but actually the Drivers Championship is secondary to Manufacturers Championship. That’s not an opinion, that’s actually how F1 works.

        1. It’s actually the Constructors Championship.

          1. My apology, you are correct, but generally in the media “Constructor” and “Manufacturer” are used interchangeably.

        2. @malrg – Yes, technically correct, but “how F1 works” in this instance is not a great reflection of reality. Seems a bit of a de jure vs de facto situation.

          1. The distinction between the two championships is rarely an issue. Since 1958, the two championships have gone to different teams only 11 of 65 times. And only 4 times in the past 30 years, including last year’s final race ‘events’ and the McLaren data scandal of 2008—barring really extreme circumstances, 2x in the last 30yrs. So, generally, it isn’t even an item to watch because there is such little distinction between them.

          2. Though I don’t have the stats for this, I’d bet 90%+ of viewers are watching the Drivers Championship battles, not the Constructors Championship. One could argue that is likely due, in part at least, to how media covers it. But regardless of how money is awarded to teams or how regulations may be written on paper, it does not appear (to me anyway) to be the focus.

          My point is NOT to say that you or anyone else is wrong to care about the Constructors Championship or details (like tyres) that may affect that. Rather, I feel that the idea of “that’s actually how F1 works” may be short sighted in this case.

          1. @hobo “Yes, technically correct, but “how F1 works” in this instance is not a great reflection of reality. Seems a bit of a de jure vs de facto situation.”
            No “how F1 Works” is the actual state of affairs, Winning the Constructors Championship is the Business that brings in the big $ prise money (Other than sponsorships ETC). Teams set out to win the Constructors Championship, and as you pointed out, almost without fail, if a Team wins the Constructors Championship, by default one of their drivers wins the Drivers Championship.

          2. I stated above I know how it works. I also stated that media (and seemingly) fans mostly don’t follow that. Do with that what you will. I’d be more than happy for you to repeat, again, what the rulebook states.

  2. Lewis should have finished 5th. Four had issues to deal with, and his teammate.

    1. I agree. I know he’s a superb driver but there does seem to be a narrative forming that he’s almost entitled to a victory this year…

      The fact is, the reason he got near was George taking out Sainz, Leclerc starting 12th, Max having a botched pit stop and two safety cars. He only beat Perez on pace.

      1. 100% agreed and said almost exactly the same in previous article.

      2. I don’t see any evidence this year to suggest Sainz would have finished ahead of Hamilton, his race pace has on the whole been woeful. Hamilton would also likely have beaten Russell on race pace. Obviously Verstappen’s car was too fast and he only got an opportunity due to some bad luck but you make your own opportunities in this sport sometimes. Perez is just once again very poor and under delivered. I’ll give you Leclerc being penalised as the only driver that was taken out of the equation that would likely have beaten Hamilton on race pace.

        1. But even after Leclerc cleared Perez, he was behind Hamilton now on newer tires and Hamilton gapped him.

        2. @slowmo – “Perez is just once again very poor and under delivered.” or… maybe Max is “over” delivering, just maybe Max is that much better.

          1. @malrg You overdeliver for the odd race. Perez has been +3 tenths slower than Verstappen all year (at least since he got his contract renewed). He’s a flop. I’m not saying Verstappen isn’t driving to a high standard, I’m saying Perez is just well below his level.
            I don’t think anyone can argue that Verstappen isn’t that much better than Perez, the performances this year clearly show the gulf in ability. Perez has taken the fastest car on the grid and finished behind the third fastest car on the grid (one that is half a second to a full second slower) on several occasions.

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