Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Monaco, 2024

Mercedes admit error in failing to warn Hamilton out-lap was “critical”

Formula 1

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Mercedes admit they made a mistake by failing to warn Lewis Hamilton to increase his pace to prevent Max Verstappen gaining an advantage during the Monaco Grand Prix.

The error allowed Verstappen to pit and fit a fresh set of tyres in his effort to put pressure on Mercedes’ second car, driven by George Russell.

Hamilton was running seventh behind Russell, fifth, and Verstappen between them when Mercedes brought him in for a pit stop on lap 51. Neither driver needed to pit, so Mercedes did not expect they would be able to use Hamilton’s fresh-tyre advantage to get ahead of the Red Bull driver, as the team’s head of trackside operations Andrew Shovlin explained.

“We never thought we’d be able to undercut Max, because the reality is if we stop because there was no one behind us and we had clear track, they are not going to stop if they don’t have the window to drop out ahead of us,” said Shovlin in a video released by Mercedes.

“What we thought we’d have ended up with was Lewis then catching up to Max, who doesn’t stop, Max is on a used set of tyres, Lewis is on a new set of tyres and he can actually put Max under pressure.

“We didn’t think it would really change the race situation, but in the unlikely event that George was struggling to make the finish, it did give us a little bit of a of an insurance policy.”

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However Hamilton had been told to manage his pace prior to his pit stop and Mercedes did not give him a clear instruction to lap as quickly as possible following his pit stop. His race engineer Peter Bonnington told him “we can push now” after his pit stop but also told him “out-lap normal”.

Shovlin admitted the team had slipped up. “The bit that didn’t go well was because we didn’t tell Lewis to go flat out on that out-lap, Max actually had the gap to make the pit stop. So he was able – because he wasn’t going as fast as he could to start with – he could push up behind George, so he gained time against himself because he was managing, he was able to do that stop, get out in front.”

Because Verstappen was also able to make a pit stop, he gained the advantage Mercedes was seeking for Hamilton.

“What we inadvertently ended up with was Max on a new set [of tyres] behind George. Which wasn’t ideal, but as you saw, it didn’t really look like George was at risk of losing that position. He’d managed the tyres well and he had good rubber at the end.”

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After Verstappen made his pit stop and came out ahead of Hamilton the Mercedes driver asked: “Why didn’t you tell me out-lap was critical?” Shovlin admitted the episode was “certainly one area of the race that we should have been a bit tidier.

“We could have been a bit clearer with the messaging, but what would have happened is we would have just had Lewis on fresh rubber, still able to get that fastest lap, which was one of the considerations that we wanted, to do that and also able to put a bit of a bit of pressure on Max.”

Hamilton’s radio messages before and after pit stop

Lap: 48/78 VER: 1’18.337, HAM: 1’17.831
Bonnington So Lewis we’re going to start getting the traffic now so start using tyres a bit more.
Lap: 51/78 VER: 1’18.142, HAM: 1’35.209
Lambiase How are the tyres, Max? Bonnington Lewis gives us a balance check.
Verstappen Not too bad. Hamilton Balance is good, mate.
Lambiase Understood. Bonnington And box opposite Verstappen, box opposite Verstappen.
Lap: 52/78 VER: 1’33.905, HAM: 1’19.702
Lambiase Okay so Hamilton in, Max. Push up for the moment. Push up to Russell. Bonnington So you’re going to be all clear on exit.
Verstappen You want me to push? Bonnington So we can push now. So this is out-lap normal but lap time should just come to you. We’re going to target 16.0s.
Verstappen Yeah, just this lap for now. I don’t think there’s too much drama either way, Max. Hamilton How hard you want to push?
Verstappen Box and pit confirm Max. Box, pit confirm. Strat 12 in pit lane. Strat nine and yellow line on the exit. Strat nine, yellow line on the exit. Could be close with Hamilton, although I don’t think so. Could be close though. Yellow line on the exit. Bonnington Just push, yep. This is like Suzuka. So Verstappen in pit lane.
Lap: 53/78 VER: 1’18.724, HAM: 1’16.458
Lambiase No, nice lap Max, well done. So let’s push on now. Push on. Hamilton Why didn’t you tell me out-lap was critical?
Lap: 55/78 VER: 1’15.398, HAM: 1’16.492
Bonnington And Verstappen a 15.8, George 18.2.

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Keith Collantine
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28 comments on “Mercedes admit error in failing to warn Hamilton out-lap was “critical””

  1. But isn’t an out-lap in any race always critical?
    Such an obvious thing shouldn’t need warning or reminding generally.

    1. No, it’s not. If you’ve got sufficient gap then it’s far better to bring the tyres up in a controlled way rather than slam them on the first lap.

      1. Any other race/track I might agree with you – but in Monaco absolutely not and certainly not this race with very slow race pace and the fact Lewis just got brand new hard tires to only cover 26 laps with the car behind Lewis 30 seconds back on much old tires.

        Lewis a 300+ race veteran absolutely screwed this up – luckily for him his mistake had no impact partly because Red Bull put on hards instead of Mediums or even Softs. Really surprised me that with just 25-26 laps to go both Lewis and Max got hards rather than softer compound.

        1. it was never obvious because in reality Max had no reason to cover him, just like Russell didn’t. He could very well
          have stayed out and Hamilton would’ve killed the tyres early for no reason at all, in acting “by instinct”. That’s why they have communications. The way they bring the tyres in is crucial. Just look at Monza 2018 for example, in which Kimi destroyed the tyres pushing them too early and them becoming a sitting duck for Hamilton later.

    2. notagrumpyfan
      30th May 2024, 13:43

      Such an obvious thing shouldn’t need warning or reminding generally.

      Indeed. At least when you are closely behind you opponent who you want to undercut (if they change tyres as well).

      The error Mercedes made was not using/telling Russell to slow down Verstappen (as mentioned below).

      1. What made not asking Russell to slow down even more baffling is that the leaders had been managing their pace based on the gap between Norris and Russell all race long. It was such an obvious thing to do if they were going to pit Hamilton. It was like they just assumed that by simply making the stop first it would mean Verstappen couldn’t so didn’t do any deeper analysis on it.

      2. This! Of course Lewis should know himself and of course the team then needs to tell Russell to slow down. So both Lewis and the team botched it. Not the first time. In their 8 years of dominance their strategy and race craft was often flattered by their sheer competitive advantage over the rest of the field. Now they’ve taken it a step further and have taken over the position of Ferrari when it comes to strategy calls.

  2. I thought the bigger error was not telling Russell to back off as soon as Hamilton pitted so Verstappen wouldn’t have the gap.

    1. I think both were mistakes but the team was snoozing by that time.

    2. Exactly right, they were asleep it seems!

    3. Yeah, from reading about this it seems they had three options and chose the worst one. It’s one thing not to have the best car, but the rest of the operation still needs to run smoothly so that, when or if they do get a good car, they can maximise its potential from race 1.

    4. In Addition with their overcautious approach to the race they made 4 rookie/Binotto-Ferrari mistakes around the only strategic challenge they encountered:

      A: Not telling the driver that “outlet was critical” when it obviously was.

      B: Talking about how a race could unfold. Had they talked about this quite likely scenario between the restarts Hamilton should have known anyway. (I still think he should have figured it out all by himself though…)

      C: Not letting Hamilton close up right behind Verstappen. No idea why they pitted when all three cars were about 1,5 – 2 seconds apart.

      D: Not backing Verstappen up with Russel. They somehow didn’t take into account that Verstappen had a lot of pace in hand. Everyone was lapping 2-3 seconds slower than they could so he could unleash a lot of pace on his inlap.

      Something happened to them. At the moment it’s not only the car that’s a far cry from the title winning power house they were 5 years ago.

    5. Bono is probably one of the most spine-less/disloyal race engineers on the grid, he gets his marching orders from the big bambino, and Lewis would be better off sacking him and putting in one of his friends who has no experience.

  3. I think Mercedes did it completely wrong. They wanted to put pressure on Max and ended up being pushed by him.

    They had two options. Pit Lewis and made him go like mad to undercut him or force Red Bull into staying out on worn tyres so Lewis could try and overtake by making Russell go slower to minimize the gap to Lewis.

    They did nothing, so Red Bull took the opportunity. Mercedes of old was a lot sharper in this aspect, which goes to show Mercedes’ has lost it way and not just with the car.

    1. The Dolphins
      31st May 2024, 14:55

      I think you got it spot on, they they had a couple of good options and choose neither.

      Mercedes’ has lost it way and not just with the car

      It likely wouldn’t have happened with James Vowles overseeing strategy. Such is sport, you amass a good team, gain success, competitors recognize and poach your talent. It’s a cross-pollination of sorts and arguably is for the better of the sport.

  4. I think both Mercedes and Hamilton could have acted better. It was clear to everyone who was watching that once Hamilton would pit, Verstappen would follow. So Mercedes should have informed Hamilton better. On the other hand, when it was clear to the viewers, I assume that Hamilton himself, who was seeing Verstappen drive directly in front of him, was aware of the threat of Verstappen pitting the very next lap. I assume someone of Hamilton’s calibre to read the race better, and have some understanding of the importance of his outlap. If the team fails to inform him about the outlap, then he could have asked right?

    1. He was told “outlap normal’ by Bono. It’s in the article.

      So why would he ask again??

  5. It’s mistake upon mistake upon mistake like this that gives the impression the entire Merc team has checked out mentally.

    1. Lewis has been #2 since the end of 2021. If you apply that conjecture, everything else makes sense. 2023 was Russell realizing that he isn’t the guy from 2022 and denial getting the better of him.

  6. Not only was that a mistake, but I think Mercedes took too long to pit Lewis. They could have done it many laps before when the gap to Tsunoda was already sufficient, and Max was too close to Russell to be able to prevent an undercut. At least that way he would have had a significant tyre delta to Max to put Redbull under pressure to decide whether or not to keep track position or to pit Max for fresher tyres.

  7. “Mercedes admit error in failing to warn Hamilton out-lap was “critical””

    Come on – a 300+ race veteran should not have to be told that out-lap is critical.
    He knew perfectly well that if he pitted the pitstop gap he had would pass on to Max and that both in and out-lap are important to prevent the car in front to get the opportunity of a free pitstop.

    Why not push on your out-lap? You got brand new tires that now only had to go 26 laps on hards.

    Both Mercedes and Hamilton screwed this up – Mercedes should also have told Russell to slow down as soon as Lewis pitted and Lewis should have pushed (without being told) on his out lap. He didn’t have to push much given the very slow pace in general so a normal race pace lap would have been enough to prevent Max from pitting or having a real chance to be ahead of Max after his pitstop.

    1. Your point completely ignores the fact they told Hamilton now to push. Had there been zero radio communication I’d agree with you, but Hamilton is relying on the team to tell him the whole story. He doesn’t know other’s strategy in the car. As Hamilton exited the pits he was told “ Normal outlap, pace will come to us”. Hamilton then asked twice how hard he should be pushing. I think he knew it was critical but also didnt want to destroy his tyres if it wasn’t needed.

      Yes this was Monaco where tyre wear wasn’t an issue, but heating them too much too soon can still destroy race pace.

  8. someone or something
    30th May 2024, 11:21

    Nothing in all of this makes any sense to me.
    There was maybe even more pace management going on than usual, but still, Monaco being such a low-grip track, undercuts were not a thing, out-laps were at best not significantly slower, but definitely not quicker than the cars that didn’t stop.
    What this implies: As soon as Mercedes pitted Hamilton, a pit stop window opening for Verstappen was the logical consequence. That’s the way it’s been in Monaco for years, ever since refuelling was banned. Whoever flinches first, gives their direct opponent an opportunity to overcut them, or at least protect their track position by pitting as well.

    Wherever I look, I fail to see anything but nonsensical behaviour at Mercedes:
    – Pitting Hamilton without giving Verstappen a free pit stop as well was tantamount to having a cake and eating it: impossible under the circumstances of the race. Unless …
    – … they told Russell to go even slower, thus closing the pit stop window for Verstappen without needing an impossibly fast out-lap from Hamilton. But they didn’t.
    – Not telling Hamilton to push was still a weird slip-up that betrayed a surprising lack of intra-team communication, even though it ultimately didn’t change anything.
    – Hamilton’s lack of strategic awareness was even more shocking. For a driver of his calibre, blindly following the pit wall instructions, pitting behind a rival and then being surprised by the fact that their rival can pit as well and stay ahead regardless, is just bewildering. At a race where the most common driver feedback was how boring it was because they didn’t really have anything to do in the cockpit, no less.

    Amateur hour on so many different levels, it’s unbelievable!

  9. Headline should be Once Young and Aggressive Driver Now Old and Slow, Team Apologizes But Is Secretly Thankful He’s Leaving.

  10. I’m concerned that Ferrari sacking their chief strategist Sainz and replacing him with Hamilton might have been a bad move for them. He often seems really dozy these days.

  11. Outlap is always critical especially in Monaco.

    Lewis just wanted to throw Russell under the bus. We all know it.

  12. Mercedes makes way too many of these small mistakes that cost them a few points, like the 2015 race.

    It’s something they never seemed to bothered to fix.

    1. They never earned their success, they bought it out and bribed Williams.

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