Mercedes admits a second stop for Valtteri Bottas would have helped in 2018 Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix, but the VSC window was very short for them to call him in and so they went for a risky option.
Mercedes pitted Bottas on Lap 15 to change for the soft tyres to cover any threat from Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who stopped on Lap 14. However, Raikkonen made another stop later on while Bottas didn’t as Mercedes opted for the riskier option.
They had a chance to stop him during the VSC period for McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, but it wasn’t long enough for them to make the call. In fact, they knew it was a gamble and felt the worst would be a fourth place, but he lost more to be fifth.
“It would’ve done, there is no doubt about that. It would’ve done if the Virtual Safety Car was guaranteed to have lasted long enough for us to make the stop,” said Mercedes’ James Allison on Pure PitWall.
“At the time we were holding what felt like a risky second place, where we thought we might be able to get to the end but we weren’t certain and we felt that the likely worst case scenario was that we’d come home fourth.
“So, we might well have considered trading that risky second place for a nailed-on third, because we had the space to do it and get out ahead of Raikkonen. We might’ve considered it if we could be confident that the VSC would’ve lasted long enough for us to complete the change.
“Trouble was, the car that had brought out the VSC was stopped right by a gap in the barriers and it was only going to take a matter of seconds for the marshals to pull that car off the track and then the VSC would’ve ended.
“It would’ve been bad for us to find ourselves in the no-mans land where we had started a VSC stop but it ended up being halfway between a full stop and a VSC stop, because of the VSC ending halfway through.
“So, in the end we decided to cling on for our risky second place strategy, thinking worst case we would finish fourth. As it happened, the second place didn’t work out and it ended up a little worse for Valtteri and for us as a result of those collisions meaning in the final analysis he dropped down to fifth place, behind Ricciardo.
“But, we did consider it and that’s why we didn’t do it.” Allison also explained that the team could have elongated Bottas’ first stop by another lap or two which may have helped in the latter stages of the race when he had to defend from Sebastian Vettel and Raikkonen.
“In hindsight, yes, we could’ve done. Whether or not we could’ve stayed out long enough to have made a difference is another question altogether,” he said. “Kimi was a few seconds behind Valtteri when he made his first stop of the day so we had a small amount of breathing space.
“We didn’t have to react the lap later and then we had a bit more breathing space by the fact that Kimi’s pit stop was actually quite slow. So, although we did choose to react quite quickly we contemplated for a little while pushing out another couple of laps and making it more of a tight thing to Kimi to prevent him undercutting us.
“We contemplated it but in the end, we rejected it, because we thought well we too might have a bad pit stop and what we definitely don’t want to do is lose the position to Kimi by pushing our luck too far.
“Arguably we were a little conservative, arguably we could’ve had a couple more laps on that first stint and then as a result of that been a little bit less exposed at the end of the race. But, the reality is that we lost the rubber with about six or seven laps to go and those two laps wouldn’t have made any difference.
“The other thing to consider is one of the reasons Valtteri was able to be out in front of Sebastian at that crucial phase in the race where Sebastian made his own stop is that he’d had a couple more laps racing on the fresher rubber that he then changed to, that meant he was that much further up the road.
“It would’ve been probably very unlikely that we would’ve been able to be ahead of Vettel when Vettel made his stop had we used those two extra laps earlier in the race. So, it’s always a swings and roundabouts thing and never quite as obvious as it looks at first glance.”
When asked if Vettel would have caught Hamilton had the German cleared Bottas early or in the pits, the Brit felt it would have been tough for Vettel considering the time he took to clear Bottas and even if he would have caught Hamilton, passing would have been difficult.