Lewis Hamilton was furious with Mercedes for pitting him in the Turkish Grand Prix but did the team make the right call?
PlanetF1 breaks it down.
Rather 10 points than none is what Mercedes should be saying to Lewis Hamilton as the Brit tries to wrap his head around a strategy call that he feels his team botched, pushing him off the Turkish GP podium. They didn’t fail him, they saved him from finishing P6 – or not finishing at all.
Heading into the final 10 laps of Sunday’s race, Hamilton was running fourth on old worn intermediate tyres, as too were Charles Leclerc and Esteban Ocon. Leclerc was the first to blink, giving up the lead in favour of safely making it to the chequered flag. Hamilton baulked at the idea when Mercedes initially told him to box, adamant he wanted to stay out until the end.
They kept him out, after all it is not often that the seven-time World Champion gets a strategy call wrong so he is one to listen to, but, losing time to those behind him, Mercedes told him again to box on lap 51, and he did.
What wasn’t explained very well to Hamilton was that he would lose places in his pit stop, dropping behind Sergio Perez and Leclerc, but that if he stayed out, he would also lose to Gasly such were the lap times.
Hamilton was furious with the team, even his post-race comments leaning more towards blame than his usual PR quotes of winning and losing together.
His mood probably not helped by Esteban Ocon managing to see the chequered flag without stopping, although the Alpine driver admits he was a lap away from a puncture. If Ocon had punctured before the finish line it would have been a case of ‘oh well, we gambled, it didn’t work’. If Hamilton punctured before the finish line it would be a case of ‘it could have been a six-point deficit, it is now 16′.
Should the Brit happen to win this year’s Drivers’ Championship by 10 points, or even the two that stood between a P5 and P6 in Istanbul, he can have Mercedes to thank for that, and an apology to issue.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 10, 2021
This sort of strategy cock-up is something I would usually associate with Ferrari, not the undisputed World Champions of the turbo hybrid era.
Whilst Lewis Hamilton may well owe Mercedes an apology if he does end up winning the World Championship by the points margin that Michelle mentioned, I do think the Mercedes pit wall are predominantly to blame for letting this incident escalate further than it needed to go.
We had a similar scenario in the previous race at Sochi with Hamilton having a difference of opinion on strategy, but the difference there and at Istanbul Park was the Mercedes pit wall were much more assertive in Russia. They needed to have the same commanding approach at the Turkish Grand Prix.
By not being more authoritative, they missed the optimum window to pit by quite some margin and left Hamilton in No Man’s Land. There simply wasn’t enough laps remaining for Hamilton to charge after Leclerc and Perez again.
Of course, it is easy for us all to wise after the event but one thing was clear throughout: Mercedes and Hamilton need to be on the same page for the rest of the season or else the Drivers’ title will definitely end up with Max Verstappen.
I’m with Mark in leaning more towards the blame predominantly siding with Mercedes, and it boils down to one moment.
It was lap 42 when Pete Bonnington told Lewis Hamilton to box for the first time – and that was already a few laps too late – but the language was forceful enough from the radio messages:
PB: “Box box, box box.”
PB: “New inter is the way to go.”
LH: “I don’t think it is, man.”
It was at that point when Mercedes made their biggest mistake.
‘Bono’ needed to explain the time being gained by others and make the case for exactly why the stop needed to happen, while the World Champion ended up being a victim of his own making by not listening to the, albeit limited, evidence in front of him.
In mitigation from Hamilton’s point of view, though, there was a reason behind him staying out initially.
When Perez stopped at the end of lap 37, the gap to Hamilton stayed pretty steady while the Mexican got through the graining phase other drivers were experiencing.
But when the grip from the new rubber kicked in, the Red Bull started closing in rapidly. Had Mercedes been more forceful with Hamilton, as they had in Sochi by presenting the hard data to him, it could have provided a different outcome on Sunday.
While Perez’s newfound speed meant Hamilton would have come out a solid 10 seconds behind the Red Bull, the 16 remaining laps would have at least offered some hope for him to get back towards Perez’s gearbox towards the end.
That one radio exchange was key – and Mercedes may end up living to regret it. As Toto Wolff said afterwards, the team need to work on their communication and trust with each other, and fast.
In my eyes, both the driver and the team have to take some blame for Hamilton losing the chance to fight for a podium and finishing in P5 instead. Hamilton shouldn’t have stayed out when told to pit and Mercedes shouldn’t have let him.
Hamilton initially thought he knew better than his team last time out at Sochi, wanting to stay on slicks, but ultimately listened to them and it earned him the victory. Given that, he had no reason not to trust their judgement at Istanbul Park and not doing so was a big mistake.
Bono and co meanwhile needed to put their foot down once he started to disobey their orders. However experienced a driver is, strategists usually know best with all of the data and information at their disposal, and this should have been made abundantly clear to Hamilton.
If he stayed out, he almost certainly would have dropped down to P7 judging by lap times if he didn’t get a puncture. This needed to be explained to him. If it was, he surely would have pitted when told to.
The seven-time World Champion should have learned his lesson from Sochi and not doubted the strategy he was put on, while Mercedes needed to be a lot clearer and firmer with him.