The chaos due to rain in the later stages of the 2018 Formula 1 German Grand Prix not only caught out the midfield drivers but it also affected the bigger teams like Mercedes.
Lewis Hamilton only stopped for the ultrasoft tyres few laps before it started to rain at Hockenheim. But the rain wasn’t huge enough and Mercedes were certain about it as they chose to keep him out on track on the slick tyres.
They did the same with Valtteri Bottas but the Finn had to come into the pits since he had stopped on Lap 28 which would have made it difficult for him to see the chequered flag on worn tyres. Ferrari also decided to call in Kimi Raikkonen.
While on the Ferrari side of things, it looked smoother but in Mercedes it was mayhem. The German manufacturer revealed of the miss-communication where they almost brought the intermediate tyres instead of the ultrasoft for Bottas.
They had to quickly then get the slick tyres to complete the pit stop which took them 33.279s instead of the usual 18-19s for a normal stop. In contrast, Ferrari’s Raikkonen’s stop was of 19.988s.
What helped Bottas was the safety car period and the adverse track conditions. “We had a few seconds to react with Valtteri, we got him into the pit lane and he did a great job,” said Mercedes’ Chief Strategist James Vowles on Pure PitWall.
“What then happened was a miscommunication on what tyres were required and intermediate tyres were called, that was incorrect. We knew UltraSoft was going to be the correct tyre.
“The conditions right then and there were intermediate but was going to happen was after the Safety Car appeared, they were 100 per cent going to be back into UltraSoft or dry conditions.
“What then happened is given the high-pressure situation, the guys did a fantastic job and something we purposely train for. They dealt with it in an extremely calm manner, got the correct tyres for Valtteri’s car of the correct specification and all four were bolted to the car.
“The car left the pit lane in a very short period of time afterwards.” At the same time, amid bigger confusion they almost got Hamilton in the pits before asking him to bail out which nearly cost the British driver a race win.
“On Lap 52 Valtteri was in Turn 15 when the Safety Car was deployed, that’s around a two and a half second reaction time that we have to get him in before he’s at the pit lane entry. With Lewis we only had a few seconds more than that.
“So, it’s not very long in order to coordinate two drivers, an engineering team and all of the pit crew to come out into the pit lane with the correct tyres. It creates a huge amount of radio traffic and indeed too much.
“It was mostly chaotic during that point in time with a lot of transmissions everywhere. As a result of it, there was a miscommunication to Lewis, he understood that he should go back out on track and he completed that.
“He drove across the grass and got back out on track again. The reality behind all of it is that actually, that turned out to be extremely fortunate given the issues that we had with Valtteri and the tyres at the pit stop.
“It put Lewis in the lead of the race and those tyres were able to recover. We could indeed have stopped next lap as Kimi did but decided to keep him out there and keep those tyres going. It’s his best chance of winning the race and it worked out very well.”
In the end, Mercedes secured a dramatic 1-2 with Hamilton taking his fourth win of the season ahead of Bottas, who was asked by the team to hold position after a brief fight considering the crash of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Had it not rain and the race gone on the same way, Vowles said Hamilton was expected to finish fifth pre-race. But in the race, they felt he could have finished fourth at least, while there was a small chance of podium as well.
Vowles also explained the team’s call for putting the ultrasoft tyres instead of the intermediates as they relied on their weather expert, who said that it won’t rain more to hugely affect the race and that ultrsoft tyres will be the best in the greasy conditions.