Mercedes technical director James Allison agrees with many a fan, the team’s decision to pit Lewis Hamilton under the late Safety Car in Brazil was “just plain dumb”.
Hamilton spent most of the Brazilian Grand Prix trying to find a way by Max Verstappen.
But while the duo mimicked each others’ strategies in the opening 52 laps, that changed when Valtteri Bottas retired bringing out the Safety Car.
Verstappen pitted for fresh tyres while Hamilton and Mercedes opted for track position.
That left the reigning World Champion a “sitting duck” and it wasn’t long after the restart that Verstappen was back up into the lead.
As such Mercedes tried to turn the tables under the second Safety Car but that failed miserably as Hamilton lined up fourth at the restart.
In his over-eagerness to make up positions, he tagged Alexander Albon and was handed a five-second time penalty for his antics.
Mercedes admit pitting the Brit was a mistake.
“Having not had the shiniest of races to that point, we then just did something plain dumb, which was – we thought we were exchanging a place for fresh rubber with enough laps left to get that place back properly and then have a go for the lead,” Allison explained to Motorsport.com.
“That was just factually incorrect because we were exchanging two places, we hadn’t factored [in] Gasly and secondly with the amount of debris on the track, there was just a lot more laps taken up by the safety car than we’d anticipated.
“And that was just, I think, that your rookie error of a not quite quick enough car on the day and trying to stretch too far for victory. It wasn’t on, we just made a mistake.”
Hamilton did play a role in the decision, telling Mercedes he will pit after they informed him that he would only lose one place. He lost two.
Allison says the Brit isn’t to blame for the call.
“In fact, this was entirely our fault because we saw what we thought was a fleeting opportunity. It was not at all clear to us that it was the right thing to do. But there was a possibility.
“We thought, well, let’s let’s give Lewis a chance to give his view, which we shouldn’t have done because we didn’t give him the right information.
“We said one place and it was two and secondly, we should have just made the call ourselves. So he uhmmed and ahhed for a second or two before diving in the pits, because he likes racing. But that was our mistake.
“I think from the moment that we made the call it was like a heart-sink moment after he emerged from the box behind Gasly and then we just were thinking: ‘Why do we do that?'”