Mercedes Technical Director Mike Elliott goes through the strategy execution in F1 Russian GP as he adds on Lewis Hamilton’s start and Valtteri Bottas’ difficulties.

Looking back at the happenings in F1 Russian GP, Mercedes technical director Elliott answered about the key moments in their usual post-race debrief, which helped the team take the win and end up fifth, to help itself in the constructors’ battle.

Elliott talked about Hamilton losing places at the start which was down to the block from Lando Norris and the McLaren racer derating early on. The Mercedes driver decided to not risk it, thereby losing places and having to rely on strategy to fight back in.

Mercedes wanted to utilise the clean air gap to build on for the long stint, while he credited Bottas’ early switch for Hamilton’s intermediate move which earned him the F1 win. Toto Wolff earlier also indicated watching Red Bull deciding to pit to call the Brit in.

On Bottas side, there was no Monza repeat as the Finn got stuck in the delta logjam, with his Mercedes car suffering from understeer. Nevertheless, the early decision to pit for the intermediate tyres was ultimately the saviour in their case.

Loss of places for Hamilton at start –

Elliott: “If you actually look at it he was on the dirty side of the grid and given that he actually made a really good start. He was making his way through the field effectively up until the point where Norris moved across blocking Lewis’s path off. Norris we think was also derating, so actually Lewis’s closing speed was really high, partly because of the tow he had and partly because Norris was derating.

“As is a consequence of that, Lewis had to make a decision: Does he try and fight for that inside line or does he brake and make sure that he is not involved in a first corner incident? You’ve got to bear in mind in Lewis’s mind his main protagonist in the championship is right at the back of the grid. And as a consequence, Lewis has to make a decision in that split second about what is the right thing to do and the right thing for Lewis to do was to make sure that he didn’t get tangled up in a first corner incident.”

Hamilton’s strategy of going long –

Eliott: “I think when you’ve got a quick car and we knew we had a quick car from Friday’s running, what you really want to do is to be in clean air. When you are tucked up behind another car you can’t exploit the pace of the car, so what you are trying to do with your strategy in that situation is to maximise the time running in clean air and that meant ideally going long with Lewis on the basis we were hoping our competitors would be fighting for position and they would pit earlier than we did. That would allow us to go long in clean air and it would also mean that when we came out after our pit stop, we would also have a chunk of clean air. So that was always going to be our strategy.”

Hamilton’s switch to intermediate –

Eliott: “First of all, thank you for the positive comment. I think the reality in these situations is really, really difficult for the strategists to get it right. Let’s just talk a bit about Valtteri first, with Valtteri we were outside of the points and that gave us some options to play with, it allowed us to take some risks with Valtteri that maybe we couldn’t have done with Lewis. As a consequence, we were already thinking about the weather and thinking about if there is a chance to switch to Intermediates do we go early?

“So that was probably an easier call. With Lewis we knew we were in second in the race and we knew if we got that wrong we could fall right back down in the field. So it is a much more challenging call. But the strategists are looking at lots of different bits of information. They are looking at the timing from each sector and trying to work out are we going to transition between slicks and intermediates? They get the information fed into them about the weather from the weather radar and they are also listening to the driver feedbacks and the drivers telling them how they feel the circuit is like.

“So that position, we got a half dry circuit, a half wet circuit. It is a really difficult call to make, probably one of the most difficult things for the strategists to do. And the bit that really made the difference for us was the weather radar and the person that was looking at the weather radar made a very clear call. What they said is they expected more rain before the end of the rain, the track was actually going to get wetter and that’s what tipped the balance to the decision of pitting for the Intermediates.”

Bottas’ no Monza repeat –

Eliott: “First of all, Valtteri had a fantastic drive in Monza. It was amazing what he was able to achieve. This race was different though, it was harder and the reason it was harder is because what we were seeing with DRS trains. What I mean by that is one car at the front with a number of cars behind all within that one second delta that allows them all to have DRS. As a consequence of that, even though Valtteri has got more pace the car in front also has that same advantage of DRS and it makes it much more difficult to overtake.

“We saw that up and down the grid with people stuck in those positions, unable to get past because of those trains. On top of that Valtteri, was also struggling with an amount of understeer in the car. And because of that he was struggling in sector 3 primarily. What that leads to is that leads to a position where it is very difficult to get close to the car in front and as a consequence of that, when you get onto the straight you don’t get the full benefit of the tow because you are just too far behind. By the time you are really sort of catching up you are already too close to the end of the straight to make that pass.”

Intermediate call and Top 5 –

Eliott: “Just feeding on that last answer really, it is a similar story, we made the right strategy, we got Valtteri onto the Intermediates at the right time. Prior to the rain coming I think we were in twelfth position, we were outside of the points and when that rain came down that gave us an opportunity. Between the strategists and Valtteri they made exactly the right call, we fitted the Intermediates and we were able to pass by others cars who were struggling on the track when they came in to the pit for the Intermediates themselves. As a result, Valtteri ended up back in P5 which is a great result for the team.”

Here’s exclusive video of Valtteri Bottas in last laps:

Here’s Valtteri Bottas on what happened at Sochi

Here’s Lewis Hamilton, Toto Wolff on their race