Mercedes has elaborated on its strategy in F1 Italian GP at Monza, as Red Bull sees human error in its pit stop for Max Verstappen.
While it was understandable for Valtteri Bottas to use the hard tyres to start the F1 Italian GP at Monza, Mercedes opted to have Lewis Hamilton too on the same compound, who was starting in the Top 5. That was the surprise thrown in by the team in an offset.
Mercedes strategy director James Vowles explained the strategy offset they had on mind with Hamilton, especially since he was starting behind the McLaren cars. “Both of our cars, Valtteri right at the back of the grid but also Lewis behind the McLarens, were out of position,” he said in their usual post-race debrief video.
“We had a car that was faster really than where it was on the grid and typically what you do with that is try and offset yourself relative to your competition. We had highlighted that the Medium tyre would probably be what everyone took, maybe you might see one car on Soft, maybe Ricciardo for example if you wanted to try and get ahead of Verstappen at the start. As it happened, he ran the Medium and did the same thing.
“But otherwise, the Medium was really that robust tyre that would work very well for a one stop strategy. If we did the same as everyone else, it would have been incredibly hard to have an opportunity to win the race or effectively put ourselves in front of two very quick cars, two McLarens. We decided therefore to fit the Hard tyre and create what we call an offset strategy.
“Our intention was to run longer than all of them and also have a tyre that was more robust in traffic, a tyre that wouldn’t overheat as much and give Lewis opportunities even towards the end of the stint, as that Medium tyre was suffering, to overtake. In the case of Valtteri it is exactly the same logic, he is right at the back of the grid, he knows he is going to have overtake all the cars coming through the field and as a result of that the Hard tyre gave him that best possibility, gave him the possibility of running very, very long when everyone else is bringing themselves in around lap 23 to 25, a typical range for a one stop starting on Medium.
“One of the benefits of this sprint race format is that the tyre choice is free, and it creates more discussion than perhaps you may think, and it involves not just the strategy team but also the drivers and Toto and the engineers, really everyone has to be on board with it and details such as your start relies on knowing what tyre you are on and it is very important that the drivers buy in to what we are trying to achieve on Sunday,” summed up Vowles.
Despite Mercedes opting to start on the hard compound, Hamilton still pitted around the time the likes of Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris and Verstappen did on their medium. That pit stop sequence is what eventually decided the fate of the grand prix, whereby the Brit returned on the track alongside his F1 title rival and they collided eventually.
Not only did Verstappen had his long pit stop, Hamilton had a relatively long one, as well. Explaining the call of pitting early, Vowles stated: “The Medium tyre was degrading, you could see Verstappen and both McLarens were really starting to drop off in terms of lap times. And Lewis’ Hard tyre would have provided him a little bit more resilience to that but even so, he’d been pushing very, very hard for 20 odd laps and that tyre wouldn’t be in the freshest state possible. Cars started to stop as you would imagine.
“Ricciardo first to cover the win, Verstappen then came in and Lewis just on that lap overtook Norris because his Medium tyres also dropped off. We hadn’t seen a single lap from Lewis yet in free air, so it is important to understand how quick we could really go, so we left Lewis out for that one lap. In that time, the time that Verstappen had stopped and Ricciardo had stopped, it became glaringly obvious that they were incredibly quick, that there was degradation on the Hard tyre and we would not be quick enough to keep pulling them out of our pit stop window.
“They in fact would come straight back in, so there was literally a window of opportunity that was then and there and that was it. It was a window where Verstappen and Norris were caught behind Stroll who had yet to stop for Lewis to come in. Had we waited, there is no doubt that they would easily closed back up into Lewis’ pit window and now you committed to a very long stint on the tyre that is clearly suffering at that stage. Now, we had a prediction that we were going to come out nicely ahead of them.
“Unfortunately, suffering a small issue in the pit stop, as did Verstappen, the opportunity was created simply because Verstappen had a poor pit stop as well, and that meant that instead of clearing both Norris and Verstappen as you saw we came alongside. Either way you take opportunities like that, we knew the Medium tyre could go to the end from that point and that is our direct rival in the championship,” summed up Vowles.
The Turn 1-2 incident left a big mark on not only Hamilton’s helmet, but also his car as Mercedes found out damage on his roll hoop and halo. Fortunately, the engine and gearbox seemed fine upon initial checks. “We had a bit of time with the car before leaving the circuit to make a quick assessment,” said Andrew Shovlin. “The rear wing is quite badly damaged, you will have seen how far that got bent over during the crash.
“There is a bit of superficial damage around wings and floor, but most of the impact was taken by the roll hoop area and the Halo itself. That came off quite badly, the quick look at the PU is that that looks okay and the gearbox we will have a bit more of a look into that when it gets back here. But as I said most of it was limited to the Halo and the roll hoop area,” summed up Shovlin.
For Red Bull, meanwhile, the early inspection was more on the human error side on Verstappen pit stop. For a team, whose times have been spectacular all-season long, it was a crucial error on the front-right, which cost them time and the circumstances then led to the disaster between the two F1 drivers.
“We had a what looks like a human error, we had an issue at the stop, and unfortunately I think it was on the front right that we had the issue and yeah the wheel was done up and ready to go and unfortunately the car wasn’t released, so yeah it’s a human error,” said Christian Horner to TV media. “Usually the guys are phenomenal in the pitlane, it didn’t go their way and then of course Mercedes then had a mess up because Lewis should have been well clear and then they had an issue and that’s what put the two drivers alongside each other.”
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Here’s Toto Wolff on his tactical foul comment
Here’s Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris defending Red Bull/Mercedes
Here’s Toto Wolff/Lewis Hamilton and Christian Horner/Max Verstappen’s views