Mercedes states that it got their strategy wrong with Lewis Hamilton in F1 Brazil GP as Red Bull Racing got theirs right with Max Verstappen.
It is not the first time for Mercedes to get their strategy wrong in the 2019 F1 season but at the same time, it is a rare thing to happen to the German manufacturer. In their defence for Brazil GP, they were actually caught out by Red Bull’s decision to pit.
With Verstappen in the lead, Red Bull had the option to pit under the first safety car period – ironically caused by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. They decided to do the opposite and try and hold the Dutchman for as long as possible in the fight for the win.
A second safety car period gave Mercedes the opportunity to pit Hamilton but it was a risk as there was no guarantee as to how many laps the British racer will get to attack Verstappen. In fact, they got the calculation wrong eventually.
Mercedes technical director James Allison admitted that they thought Hamilton will lose only one position to Red Bull’s Alexander Albon in the pits but they also lost out to Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, which meant, Hamilton had to pass both to get to Verstappen.
He did make it through Gasly soon but had a collision with Albon, which sealed his fate. Hamilton finished third but a penalty dropped him to seventh. “I wish I could give a good answer because the simple one was that we were just a bit impetuous [on strategy].
“We were not quick enough in the race to win in a commanding fashion, we were reaching a bit at the end, and we paid a price for doing something that was too optimistic. First of all we miscalculated: we thought we would lose one place but we lost two.
“We thought we’d have a quick pass of [Alex] Albon and then have a go at Verstappen. It was a very disappointing day. We made some mistakes, where we suffered very uncharacteristic unreliability for Valtteri and a disappointing finish for Lewis.
“Valtteri suffered from an oil consumption issue earlier on in the race and we were monitoring it, but it got worse and ended his race prematurely. Overall a very disappointing weekend for us, we want to put it behind us,” summed up Allison.
Prior to Bottas’ retirement, the Finn was handicapped after the team decided to call him to change from hard to medium when they realised the tyres wouldn’t work until the end. It did not help Bottas as he lost ground and was stuck behind the Ferraris.
While Mercedes did not have a great day at pitwall, the strategy call by Red Bull for Verstappen to pit, even though he was to lose places, worked well as they banked on tyre life and car performance to get by the Mercedes and retake the lead.
As a gesture, Christian Horner decided to send Red Bull strategist Haanah Schmitz to the podium after the race for her brave decision to have Verstappen pit under the safety car. “I think our strategy worked well for us,” said Horner.
“There were moments like the Williams might have cost us a vital track position with the release. But Max used the new set of tyres that were put onto the car with great effect, made a great pass on Lewis and then was able to control the race.
“The hardest thing was the second stop but the boys did it under 1.9s. Also, as a race leader on a set of tyres that are reasonably new, is to make the decision to pit from the lead knowing that the the car behind will do the opposite.
“Our strategist Hannah made that recommendation. Hannah has been with us in the strategy team for several years. She took maternity leave last year and then returned to work after her maternity leave on a full time basis. She has a significant commute to work.
She drives four hours every day. But she has that commitment and that passion for her job. She made the strategy call and I felt it was right to reward her to get the trophy and I think it’s a great advert for working moms and she’s an important member of our team.”
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