Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2022

Mercedes admit tactical error in their best chance to win a race this year

2022 Mexican Grand Prix

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Mercedes failed to foresee how well the softer tyres would perform in the Mexican Grand Prix, team principal Toto Wolff admitted after yesterday’s race.

The team’s drivers qualified second and third on the grid behind Max Verstappen. But while the Red Bull driver opted to start the race on soft tyres and switch to mediums, Mercedes used rubber one stage harder on each stint.

While Lewis Hamilton kept Verstappen within range during the first stint, he fell 15 second behind after switching to hard tyres at the end of the race. With Mercedes’ cars the only ones among the top seven finishers to run the hard rubber, Wolff admitted the team hadn’t got it tactics right.

“In hindsight, it’s always easier to judge,” he said. “But I think that the one-stop, medium-hard looked like the right strategy.

“That the medium at the end held on for so long came as a surprise. But the hindsight is the thing. If we were to restart the race, maybe we would choose a different tyre.”

Following the race Hamilton revealed he wanted to start the race on the soft tyre, the same as Verstappen. However others in the team felt they had to start on mediums.

“We felt [the soft] was strong when we discussed it this morning, but not strong enough to really go 30 laps or so,” said Wolff. “Our models said that a soft-hard would go,” he said. “Our models didn’t say that a soft-medium would go.”

After Hamilton made his pit stop, George Russell urged the team to leave him out longer on his original set of mediums tyres in the hope of switching to the soft, a strategy several other drivers employed, such as McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo. Wolff admitted this was an option they could have used.

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“It could have been to lose more time on the medium and hang it out there for another five, six laps and then try to do 30 laps on the soft,” he said. “But also that was not a given that it would hold on with Daniel you could see that it was possible.”

The team believe this was their best chance this year of winning a race, said Wolff. “On the simulations, it says yes.”

However Lewis Hamilton suspects Red Bull were so quick Mercedes would not have won the race even if they had started on soft tyres.

“I think ultimately they still have the upper hand,” he said. “They’re still a little bit quicker.

“Maybe today we were the closest that we’ve ever been and perhaps if we were on the same tyre maybe it was a couple of tenths a lap perhaps. But they’re quite quick in a straight line and not losing through the corners. I was in his tow and I was struggling just to keep up so they’ve definitely got a little bit more in the tank than we do.

“But we’re getting closer. I think if we had started on the soft, maybe I would have been the same distance behind in that first stint. I don’t really know what else, what different we would do. Perhaps we would have tried the undercut and ultimately that would have been much more enjoyable to try something like that.

“But hindsight is a great thing. I’m just grateful for the progress we have made as a team and the fact that we are now in between the Red Bulls. I think that’s huge.”

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2022 Mexican Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
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21 comments on “Mercedes admit tactical error in their best chance to win a race this year”

  1. It seems to me they were too head down looking at their own models without observing what else was going on. I don’t remember the exact timings, but IIRC there were some radio calls about how the tyres from the first stint of other teams weren’t worn very hard, which was a clue. I expected red types to go on the Mercedes, and was surprised when the hards came out. They still might not have won, but it was the strategy I was expecting at the time.

    1. Especially baffling with Russel handing the strategy to them on a platter: “I can extend this first stint, let’s put some softs afterwards”. I don’t understand why Mercedes didn’t trust their man on the track (or take a gamble with their second driver).

      1. Their fear is putting George on that strategy could mean him taking 2nd place from Lewis as well which they dont want to happen for obvious reasons.

  2. petebaldwin (@)
    31st October 2022, 11:57

    Hindsight is useless. The skill is getting it right in the first place like several other teams did. They’re even admitting that their models showed soft-hard would work but they decided to be even more cautious than that which resulted in Hamilton spending the entire race on slower tyres than Max.

    Beating a Red Bull with Max driving it is not an easy task this year but you’ve got to at least give your drivers a chance if you want it to happen. Instead, they just settled for 2nd and 4th which is a decent haul of points but contradicts with their pre-race talk of going all out for the win.

    1. End of day you have to be realistic about your actual chances too. Max went onto the medium and from what I could see from sporadically checking the timing screen was doing a 1:22s every single lap without fail. The sheer consistency of that drive meant the battle was never on. They could’ve matched their tactics, perhaps, but unless they got past Max at the start, the fight doesn’t seem like it was ever really on. He immediately pulled a >1s gap to break DRS and then just seemed to fall into his own rhythm with Lewis never able to pull closer.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        31st October 2022, 12:18

        True but Mercedes strategy meant Max could just pick a consistent pace and look after his tyres. The hards were considerably slower than the mediums – something Brundle said during commentary had been clear throughout practice. Lewis was never able to close up to Max because he spent the entire race on slower tyres.

        Before the race, it had been said on repeat that the start was vital. Get past Max at the start and Mercedes had a chance at the win. Instead, they went for the conservative option which meant they were never getting off the line quicker. It was Red Bull who went aggressive with the strategy….

        If they’d split their strategy with Lewis starting on the mediums and George on the softs, Max wouldn’t have been able to coast around protecting his tyres and it would have forced Red Bull to be more aggressive.

        They’ve been saying they don’t care about finishing 2nd – it’s all about winning a race. They’ll do whatever they can to win and will take risks. As soon as the race starts, they spend the entire time focussing on Perez in 3rd and let him dictate their own strategy rather than being aggressive and trying take the race to Max.

    2. Hindsight is useless. The skill is getting it right in the first place like several other teams did.

      Like with the cost cap?!

      Seriously though, the bizarre thing was them not splitting strategies. To decide that there was only one possible way of running the race makes no sense to me if you’re looking to try and sneak a win against a faster car/driver combo.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        31st October 2022, 13:54

        Yeah pretty much. Red Bull screwed up and have lost £7m plus a bunch of windtunnel time. Others screwed up by complaining that punishments should be extremely harsh only after they found out Red Bull breached the cap. If they’d all demanded drivers/constructors points were stripped from any team that breaches the cap when the rules were set, things would have worked out differently but I guess they weren’t all convinced they’d meet the cap themselves.

        You’re right regarding splitting the strategies – I said the same above. If you’re fighting against a faster car, you aren’t going to win the race if you go with a conservative strategy. You have to try everything you can which means splitting strategies and going aggressive.

        They said they’re going all out for a win and don’t care about podiums but their whole strategy was designed around protecting 2nd place so their actions and their words directly contradict each other.

      2. Really surprised also that they did not split strategies. Even if both start on the mediums the could have changed one to hards and the other to double softs.

  3. At leasr, he has learnt something.
    Mattia ?
    Can you learn from Toto, please ? 😁

  4. In hindsight, it’s always easier to judge

    But some things you can predict and strategise before the race.
    – they had a good plan to take Verstappen on the first straight, but with his good start and softer tyres that did not work out.
    – their next plan should be to work together. But in turn three they forget about it, and the fight between them for 2nd place caused Russell to leave the track and Perez to overtake them. This should never have happened (fighting with your teammate, when there is a bigger prize to be had).
    – why did they both go for the same strategy? Especially with the slow stop of Perez they suddenly had track position back and could have let Hamilton go for the long stint, and Russell for a 2-stopper.
    – and the ‘cheap’ pit stop during the VSC was so obvious that Russell should have been given it. Even if Perez reacted (which he couldn’t due to the short VSC period) it would not have cost them anything.

    Those plans would not have guaranteed a better result, but improved their chances by quite a bit.
    Finally Mercedes is back with the top teams, and immediately they copy the poor strategy decisions which stopped Ferrari from ever becoming a serious threat.

    1. Getting at least GR on softs was so obvious there is only a reason they didn’t do it. An obvious reason too. GR wouldn’t have won the race on softs but probably would have easily made second. Which apparently is not what Merc wanted.

      1. I don’t think it was for that reason they didn’t try the softs, they already caused hamilton to lose the place to russell at least twice this year by giving russell better tyres, but yes, they should’ve been more aggressive, would’ve always been a low likelyhood to beat verstappen.

      2. 100% correct

  5. Some people argue less testing is better.. So we get more unpredictable racing.
    But as with everything there are 2 sides to the story. Here more testing might have helped Mercedes understand the tires better and give RBR a better challenge in the second part of the race. ..and us viewers a better race altogether…

  6. It’s not just hindsight. The F1TV commentary pointed out Mercedes didn’t test all compounds in the free practice sessions. They had plenty of time to do so, even more so than other teams given that they were able to do normal practice during the extended Pirelli 2023 testing due to De Vries taking part in FP1.

    Then they’re 2nd and 3rd on the grid. Since neither driver is in championship-contention, the best Mercedes can do is win a race. The obvious call is to split the strategies and give the most aggressive one to the best driver, i.e. Hamilton. Red Bull understood this when the best they could do was score occasional wins, but Mercedes still seems to approach races like they did when they had the best car by some margin.

    1. Exactly, good point, red bull was generally more aggressive when they were in similar situations as merc now.

    2. Was “Sir” surly post-race?

  7. Toto needs to threaten the strategist group of their employment. At this point, I’d expected them to be more aggressive than their recent years, but they just can’t simply find a balance in between it. Hamilton had a chance to keep within touch of Verstappen since he was not losing that much on the straights. For crying out loud, they almost wasted the whole weekend even though they scored more points than Ferrari since 2nd is still within range in the constructors.

  8. Our models said that a soft-hard would go

    Models are created by human beings, models can be overuled by common sense.

  9. Look at the comments here. It’s remarkable what people get worked up over

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