George Russell, Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Monaco, 2024

Verstappen’s frustrated engineer slated Mercedes’ strategy as “madness”

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by

Red Bull were infuriated by Mercedes’ strategy in the Monaco Grand Prix as Max Verstappen was trapped between their cars all race.

As almost every driver made their mandatory tyre change during the early red flag period, sixth-placed Verstappen was stuck behind Mercedes’ George Russell with no strategic options to attack those ahead. Both were on the medium tyre compound, while the four cars ahead were on hard rubber, and Mercedes were unwilling to risk pushing their tyres too hard early on for fear they might degrade before the end of the race.

Soon after the race restarted, Russell was told by his race engineer Marcus Dudley to keep a lid on his pace. The driver pointed out he was lapping far off his potential pace as Lando Norris ahead of him pulled away by well over a second per lap at times:

Lap: 1/78 (Red flag)
Dudley It looks like everyone has changed tyres apart from Sargeant.
Lap: 4/78 RUS: 1’22.868
Dudley So it’ll be DRS end of this lap. Let’s settle into the management now.
Lap: 5/78 RUS: 1’23.045
Dudley And George no need to stick this close to Norris. Just manage these tyres at this stage.
Russell This is the only opportunity?
Dudley So, Max has been told to back off from you a little bit as well.
Lap: 6/78 RUS: 1’23.012
Russell I mean, this pace at the moment must be three-and-a-half, four seconds off.
Dudley And we think that’s the right thing to be doing at the moment. 72 laps remaining at the end of this one. So we will be taking this to the end.
Lap: 7/78 RUS: 1’21.415
Russell I mean, if you want me to manage everywhere or just, three, four, five. If we continue at this pace, we’re going to open a pit stop for them.
Lap: 8/78 RUS: 1’21.612
Dudley So management at three, four, five and then 12, 13, 14.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

By lap 10 Norris was over six seconds ahead of Russell. While this was nowhere near enough for the McLaren driver to be able to pit and come out ahead of his pursuers, Verstappen’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase grew concerned that if the gap continued to increase at that rate a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car period would give Norris the chance to put on fresh tyres and leave the pits before they caught up:

Lap: 10/78 VER: 1’21.244, HAM: 1’21.437, RUS: 1’21.531
Lambiase Not entirely sure why Russell is going so slowly. He’s just giving them a free pit stop gap eventually. But keep it there for the moment. Russell I reckon there’s about three seconds in the pocket here. Just tootling around currently.
Dudley Just discussing, one second.
Russell And I’m currently managing everywhere. I can increase the pace in some places and decrease further in others if you wish.
Lap: 11/78 VER: 1’21.492, HAM: 1’21.325, RUS: 1’21.452
Hamilton What gap do you want me to keep? Dudley So, George, at this stage we gain nothing from driving faster.
Bonnington And we’re happy with this for the moment. Russell Affirm.

Russell reduced his pace by so much he became concerned Verstappen could suddenly close up, get within DRS range and mount a surprise attack. He told his race engineer to stay alert to any sudden moves from the world champion immediately behind him:

Lap: 14/78 VER: 1’19.723, RUS: 1’20.272
Lambiase Another two or three laps and Norris will have a VSC stop on Russell. Russell You just tell me what you want me to do.
Lap: 15/78 VER: 1’20.370, RUS: 1’20.202
Lambiase So Norris to Russell eight seconds, just one second shy of a Safety Car stop. Dudley So keep doing what you’re doing.
Lap: 16/78 VER: 1’20.287, RUS: 1’19.913
Lambiase Norris-Russell 8.5. Dudley So George, happy to reduce management 15, 16, 18, 19. And George, oxidation warnings are no issue so don’t worry about those, just follow my orders.
Lap: 17/78 VER: 1’19.898, RUS: 1’20.150
Russell How hot is the front-left turn eight?
Lap: 18/78 VER: 1’19.580, RUS: 1’19.438
Dudley So surface temp at turn eight is below the window.
Russell So are you scared of me sliding it there or not?
Lap: 19/78 VER: 1’20.171, RUS: 1’20.157
Dudley Yeah. We don’t want to be sliding the tyre too much there turn eight.
Russell Okay shout when Verstappen gets in the one second.
Dudley Affirm.
Russell It’s just that we’re driving so slow, I think it would be easy just to pounce in a sector and gain a second and a half or so. Are any gaps opening up behind?

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Verstappen and his race engineer made their growing frustration clear:

Lap: 20/78 VER: 1’19.886, RUS: 1’20.053
Lambiase Lando now has a Safety Car stop on Russell. That’s madness, really. Dudley So the gap to Tsunoda is opening up behind us. So you’ve got Verstappen at 1.2.
Verstappen There’s not much we can do. I’m trying to just sit there. Not too close. Russell Only under one second, please.
Lambiase Yeah. Roger that.
Verstappen Fuck me this is boring. Should have brought my pillow.
Lap: 21/78 VER: 1’20.255, RUS: 1’19.788
Lambiase Final update on the Norris Russell-gap. That’s now 10.5 and increasing. Dudley Yeah. Copy that.

At the end of the race, when Verstappen and the Mercedes driver finished in the order they started behind the same four cars, the Red Bull pair shared their dissatisfaction at their rival’s approach to the race:

Chequered flag
Verstappen Did you fall asleep, anyone?
Lambiase It’s a shame that Mercedes and Russell gave up the ghost so quickly in the race, but…

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Become a RaceFans Supporter

RaceFans is run thanks in part to the generous support of its readers. By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the same in whichever currency you use) you can help cover the costs of creating, hosting and developing RaceFans today and in the future.

Become a RaceFans Supporter today and browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

2024 Monaco Grand Prix

Browse all 2024 Monaco Grand Prix articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

25 comments on “Verstappen’s frustrated engineer slated Mercedes’ strategy as “madness””

  1. I get frustration, but I don’t see how another strategy realistically would have yielded better results for Russell

  2. I don’t know what else they could have done. The red flag made everyone attempt the zero stop. Only Hamilton really had a chance to pit with gaining something or maybe Norris when he had a 19 second gap to Russell.

  3. It hasn’t taken them long to start panicking and calling other people names has it.

    1. It hasn’t taken you long to completely misrepresent it. Please tell me which panic and when did this occur, and please show me who they called which name….yeah you can’t because it isn’t true, is it? But hey, I’ve read more of your reactions. All you got left is dimisihing anything Verstappen or Redbull. You come across as being incredibly occupied with him, seems like you’re having a lot of trouble coping with it.

      1. If you think I have issues with either Max or Red Bull, any more than I do with every driver and team, then you can’t have read many of my posts.

        1. But please tell me when did they panic, and please point me to the moment where they were namecalling others! Should be easy for you, because you were very clear about that, or are you admitting that you talk nonsense?

  4. What’s going on at Mercedes? They were way to overcautious in how they approached the race because the tires seemed to be just fine in the end. Of course it wouldn’t have made any difference in Monaco, but it shows the different mindset between them and Redbull. No way the latter would have let the top 4 just cruise into the distance without trying anything.
    And the one pitstops they did with Hamilton was also poorly handled by allowing Verstappen to answer immediately…

    Btw. Funny that this time it was the driver who tried to calm down his engineer.

    1. What were they supposed to try? You can also say that Red Bull let Russell crawl around the track for 77 laps without trying anything.

      All the decisions were made before the race. After they were forced to switch to mediums on lap one, there wasn’t another option for Russell.

  5. Mercedes are now more focused on destroying Hamilton for next year than they are on their own success. Real race to the bottom for a team who a few years ago were so dominant.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Hamilton actually left before the end of the season. He knows what’s going on.

    1. Ha yes martyrdom, very telling for the Hamiltoncult. Everybody, the whole world is against Hamilton! Yeezzz you cannot seriously be so ignorant… A multibillion dollar brand, a multimillion dollar sportteam, all these people working for that team, all just to obstruct Hamilton. At what point do you come to the realisation that you’re making a complete f*ol of yourself?

      1. Actually I’m being serious, Hamilton is a huge rival for them next season, can’t you see why it’d be beneficial for them to unsettle him while pumping George with confidence. To be honest it’d be more crazy if they wasn’t!

        Imagine allowing Hamilton to wipe the floor with Russell this year. They’ve then got him as a team leader next season! They need to give him all the confidence possible.

        Call me all you want, but it’s very logical to suggest someone who’s leaving a close knit team is going to be treated as an outsider until they leave. It’s human nature. Hamilton is nothing to Mercedes now. He’s lost all his marketing power for them as everyone who sees him instantly thinks of Ferrari.

        No value other than to be target practice for George. Just wait, as the season unfolds you’ll see it more and more.

        1. Don’t change the premise now you’re getting called out. ‘Being treated as an outsider’ is someting completely different than, and I quote: ‘Mercedes are now more focused on destroying Hamilton’.
          It is very normal and not outside the norm to let personel who isn’t part of your team anymore the next year, outside the information loop on the performance of the car. But when it is Hamilton, you just cannot control yourself and think it is all a conspiracy against him, how toxic and how sad.

          1. Oh I’m changing nothing Erik. Destroying Hamilton’s confidence should be their key strategy. Why wouldn’t it be? Do you genuinely believe they want Hamilton beating Russell this year? What do they have to gain from that? A weakened Russell as their team lead next season. Surely you can agree there’s some benefit to the team if Russell beats Hamilton consistently this year.

            I’m not the one resulting to insults, but yet I’m the one who lacks self control?

          2. Ben’s right, Mercedes have no interest in seeing Lewis succeed. They never wanted him as a brand ambassador, and the more time passes, the more it looks like he was just a poster child for the up and coming “BLM” movement (establishment wiping its hands in gross falseness and cynicism) and Wolff’s greater political ambitions. Im with Ben, Merc are a joke, but are not succeeding due to agreed upon time tables and sponsor imperatives. Lewis was a winner before Mercedes, and he will be a winner after Mercedes. Mercedes are just a stepping stone, stuck in their own political ambition.

  6. what’s interesting is that at first Russell was all racy with the front runners while Max and Hamilton were already managing. Then came that instruction and Russell began holding them back. I don’t think they intended to go so slow.

    Either way, they were all stuck with that they had, wouldn’t make any diffference to the final result.

  7. Let’s settle into the management now.

    Grrr, you don’t get this nonsense in a bike race… Just do whatever MotoGP does with the radios. Safety and critical stuff only. If the tyres wear out, put on the ones you took off after one lap at the start.

  8. Surprising that Russell was directly telling how much additional pace he had (three seconds). Ferrari were explicit in their instruction to Leclerc on this and ensured that Leclerc never spoke that number out loud.

    I feel Mercedes did the best they could. They obviously had to manage more than the front 4 as their car is a step slower and the tyres a step softer.

    Red Bull saying this stuff (gave up the ghost, defeatist strategy) is just them trying to annoy Toto. If any other team would have done what Merc did, Red Bull wouldn’t say such stuff

    1. Surprising that Russell was directly telling how much additional pace he had (three seconds).

      Let’s just say that Russell is unlikely to win Mastermind

  9. Did Mercedes miss a trick? They pit Lewis and had an opportunity for George to back up Max such that Red Bull couldn’t have made their stop without losing position to Lewis. They allowed Max a free stop and missed a chance to pressure him. Might have made no difference in the but surely it was worth trying?

    1. Quite possibly. McLaren certainly did. They had the opportunity to put Piastri on a new set with ~20 laps to go. Lando would have let him past and with the net tyre advantage he would have been a good chance at getting at least Sainz and put some real pressure back on Leclerc.

      Unfortunately with the “points for everyone” model (which is about to get worse) they seem happy to just get a “result” rather than have a proper crack at a chance of a maiden F1 victory, at Monaco no less. I know I’d rather take 3rd with a real chance at 1st over just tootling around for 2nd…

      1. @bob2 I disagree here – I think that would just be throwing away P2. It is as good as impossible to overtake in Monaco, even on much fresher tyres. Max couldn’t even attempt an overtake on fresh softs against George on 70 lap old mediums at the end of the race. The same would happen for Piastri on Sainz. Remember, the leaders have been pottering around 3 seconds off the pace for the entire race to ensure their tyres remain in good shape at the end, so the tyre advantage isn’t as huge as it would normally be, on top of the difficulty of overtaking at Monaco.

    2. They missed nothing. If I’m watching at home wondering why Russell wasn’t holding up Verstappen to let Hamiltom get the jump I can’t believe for one second some of the strategy team didn’t have the same idea.

      The answer is that they didn’t want any risk to George to help Hamilton. Their goal now is to build George into the leader for next season. A P6 or P7 for Hamilton isn’t important to them. They couldn’t make it any more obvious by telling Hamilton “normal outlap” when in fact it was critical for an overtake. They were happy to have Verstappen between their drivers to avoid contact and give George a confidence boost.

      1. You’re right. I’m thinking Lewis wins this race if Mercedes doesn’t sabotage him for George’s confidence.

    3. Did Mercedes miss a trick? They pit Lewis and had an opportunity for George to back up Max such that Red Bull couldn’t have made their stop without losing position to Lewis.

      The only way I see that working is if George backs things up so much that Lewis is out in front of him.
      Swapping the two Mercs back would be extremely difficult without opening things up to allow Max through in front of both.

      So, unless you want a sulky George, you don’t organise a method for Lewis to be in front by strategy. Yes, it’s additional points for the team, but I don’t think George wants to play that game.

      1. This only happens if both George and Max pit, because Lewis was obviously behind them and they had made their mandatory tyre change. Very likely that what happens if Max doesn’t have the pit window to Lewis, is he just stays out and eventually comes under ‘pressure’ from Lewis later in the race on fresher tyres (as much ‘pressure’ as can be applied at Monaco anyway).

Comments are closed.