Toto Wolff says pitting Lewis Hamilton earlier would have been better but not pitting would have been catastrophic in F1 Turkish GP.
Once again the Mercedes pit wall were in a spot of bother in F1 Turkish GP. It was seemingly a missed opportunity on the side of both the team and Hamilton, where thinking of a dynamic and a bold gamble, they probably lost handful of points to Max Verstappen.
A pit from the Dutchman kick-started the chain reaction where Mercedes duly pitted Valtteri Bottas for a second set of intermediate. For a brief moment, it didn’t seem to be the right call, when all the drivers who stopped started to face graining on their tyres.
But once that period was gone, it seemingly became the right call. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Mercedes’ Hamilton were the only ones in the front-running group to not pit until very late, while Alpine’s Esteban Ocon eventually decided not to pit at all.
Hamilton pitted with eight laps to go which was not enough for him to fight Leclerc or even Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, but had to fend off AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly towards the end. In fact, Wolff noted that the pit stop was done to avoid losing to the Frenchman.
The time loss on the scrubbed intermediate was such that Hamilton was in danger of losing a safe fifth place too. Despite having a thought to see through the end, they eventually decided to call him in. “It was 10-12 laps to the end, we thought [about finishing on same tyres] as his lap times were actually strong, they were like Perez behind him, 34.6-34.7s and then suddenly it started to drop off,” said Wolff to written media.
“Once Perez brought his intermediate to the window and went to through the graining phase where we were losing a second or two per lap, we were clear that we will lose that position, probably Leclerc and also Gasly. So we protected against Gasly.” Further explaining the call and the sequence of events, Wolff admitted of late pitting.
He felt that they should have stopped him earlier to allow the graining period to go through and then hustle the likes of Leclerc and Perez for third or fourth. “I think in the car it’s always very difficult to assess your position in the race,” said Wolff. “We could have either played it very conservative and pitted him when Verstappen and Perez pitted and then fight it out on track and probably come out behind Perez and fight for P4, P3 on track.
“The other thing was to try to go long and either transition to a dry tyre or just not stop anymore. So, there were two possible options that sounded quite good because finishing fifth, where we were, obviously we would have done that because Gasly was far away. Then unfortunately the pace just dropped off much quicker than we would have needed in order to stay third or even fourth or even fifth.
“We almost lost the window against Gasly and then we decided ‘OK that’s not going to happen and let’s pit and consolidate fifth’. So I think in hindsight now we would have pitted 10 laps earlier and fought it out on track probably and finished third and fourth but there was much more to gain from the other, more dynamic, variant,” summed up Wolff.
Talking about dry conditions, Wolff reckoned fifth was the best they could have done, even though they had a dominant car at their disposal. The greasy conditions actually would have helped them to do better, but they were happy with damage limitation.
“I think in a normal dry race, this would have probably been the best case, finishing fifth,” said Wolff. “And today best case with every decision, with the hindsight of the end result or with the information we have at the end, probably third would have been the best we could have achieved. So it’s a five point swing. But I think we need to walk away from here and say that was damage limitation for this weekend. And Valtteri, thank God Valtteri was up there and won the race and and scored an extra point for fastest lap.”
On Hamilton side, he was more about stopping earlier or not stopping at all, preferring the latter option after seeing that Ocon completed the race without pitting. He was trying to miss the inter stop and go direct to a dry stop if the track had dried enough.
“The tyres are bald, so you don’t know how far they are going to go, so there’s definitely worry of the life of the tyre,” said Hamilton to TV media. “But also I was really struggling out there in the end with low grip, but all of a sudden I did not have such bad pace, but I was losing performance to the guys behind.
“In hindsight, I should have probably stayed out or come in much earlier, because when you come in with eight laps to go, you don’t have time to go through the graining phase of the tyre, so then I went through this whole phase where you lose more positions. A bit frustrating but it is what it is.
“It felt good to be third and if I could have hold onto to it, it would have been a great result. The fact is that the track was drying and we don’t know it would dry or not but it was slowly getting drier. For me, I was third at one stage and hopeful that I would miss a stop. So when everyone did the inter switch, I was hopeful that if there was another to slicks, that would gain me positions.
“There were two scenarios for me, I think, we could maybe stopped earlier, maybe when I caught Perez, we could have stopped, but at that point you had no idea if it would have been dry or not. I don’t know but it was frustrating at that time because I could see second and all of a sudden I am back in fifth. Actually, I didn’t know at that time but I could have probably assumed that I would lose places because the guys were only 15s behind. So I knew that I would lose perhaps one,” summed up Hamilton.
Here’s how Esteban Ocon did without stopping
Here’s how F1 Turkish GP panned out