Toto Wolff talks about the pit confusion with Lewis Hamilton in F1 Saudi Arabian GP, as the Brit seemingly missed the chance to pit while the pitlane was open.
Mercedes’ Hamilton’s admirable recovery drive from a lowly starting position was curtailed by an unfortunate circumstance and a mix-up between pit wall and driver towards the end of the F1 Saudi Arabian GP in Jeddah.
Since pre-season testing in Bahrain it has been clear that the reigning constructors’ champions Mercedes are struggling on the pace front with the outfit seemingly unable to compete with Red Bull and Ferrari at the head of the field.
Hamilton however endured a hugely disappointing Saturday in Saudi Arabia, being knocked out in Q1 for the first time since crashing in qualifying in Brazil over four years ago. Newly-recruited teammate George Russell on the other hand managed to make it to Q3 and qualifying an impressive P5.
The seven-time champion started on the hard tyres as Mercedes split their strategies, and the team opted to keep Hamilton out on track when a full safety car was called for Nicholas Latifi’s crash. He valiantly pushed on with reasonable pace behind Russell until a virtual safety car was called when Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso stopped on track.
The Australian stopped near the pit entry with the Spaniard following suit. Radio messages to Hamilton seem to suggest that he missed the call to box at a crucial moment and carried on past the pits, just before it was closed. Onboard from the Brit showed that he did pass through the pitlane and was told to be alert to come in if needed.
“The end result was obviously not great,” surmised Hamilton to written media. “I think relatively [things went] well on the hard tyre. I was keeping up with George and putting in some decent times considering how old the tyres were but the strategy at the end, I don’t know if it’s strategy or just the VSC meant we lost out so much.
“We’ll keep working hard and keep fighting, that’s all we can do.” Team principal Wolff looked to the upsides of the situation, which topped off a disappointing weekend in Jeddah where the team had hoped to put the team’s Bahrain struggles in the past.
“I think on the encouraging side is that Lewis’ stint on the hard, it was positive,” stated Wolff to written media. “I wouldn’t tell it was fast, but it was positive. And then obviously Alonso slowed down during the lap, Ricciardo broke down in the end of the pit entry and we told him to come in, but there was a double yellow, a car slowing down and one stationary.
“So it was just an overall confusing situation. And he drove past, slowing down because of the confusion, and then that made us come out behind Magnussen, and obviously then it’s game over,” summed up Wolff.
The drivers behind Hamilton at the time the VSC was called, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Aston Martin’s Nico Hulkenberg – also on the same strategy – successfully made it into the pits before it was shut by race control. After what happened in Monza of 2020, the Brit perhaps was in two minds to enter the pitlane fearing that it was closed.
But as things panned out, he seemingly had time to come in before it was closed which left him with more work to do after having already done the hard work of passing the cars in the first stint. The fight included one against Magnussen where the pair battled masterfully for several laps, causing the Dane to go as far as admitting that “we were quicker than him, which was quite surprising and good”.
When asked if he was happy with the fight with Hamilton, Magnussen quickly stated “yes, definitely”. In fact, Hamilton was surprised how hard he had to battle against the Haas. At the time it appeared that the Dane was using the underhand tactic of slowing prior to the DRS activation line before the final corner, a move popular amongst drivers dueling in the race.
The fact that Hamilton made it past so effortlessly on Lap 23 came as a surprise owing to the unmistakable straight line speed disadvantage of the Mercedes powered cars at this stage of the season.
Here’s the fight between Lewis Hamilton and Kevin Magnussen: https://twitter.com/F1/status/1508527091087675392?s=20&t=pCjz6Dvz1V0JC83gM9LBDw
The story was written by Danny Herbert
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