Jacques Villeneuve has criticised Mercedes for paying more attention to their “computers” than the action in Mexico as they should have seen that the soft tyres were up to the job.
Mercedes surprised Red Bull at the Mexican Grand Prix when, instead of attacking, they went for a conservative strategy.
The team started both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell on the mediums before putting them onto the hard tyres, convinced the medium-soft combination wouldn’t work.
But it did, Max Verstappen winning the race having gone soft-medium while Daniel Ricciardo bagged ‘Driver of the Day’ with his medium-soft strategy.
Hamilton had to settle for yet another runner-up result, the seven-time World Champion still chasing his first win of the season, while Russell was fourth.
Villeneuve says Mercedes should have paid more attention to what was actually going on in the race.
Writing in his formule1.nl column, the 1997 World Champion questioned Mercedes’ strategy saying while it made the race “interesting, perhaps they should have watched more television.”
He explained: “In the first half of the race it was clear the soft tyre survived despite full tanks and a green track.
“It has been the case for fifty years that as the race progresses you get lighter and the track gets more grip. So I was surprised by the choice for the hard tyre.
“Lewis Hamilton still had speed, so why not? But for George Russell the frustration was great.
“He asked several times to continue and then go for the soft tyre. He had nothing to lose anyway.
“Everyone could see what Ricciardo was doing on the mediums, that was clearly the right compound.”
He added: “Maybe the Mercedes team should just watch television instead of all their computers.”
The Canadian concedes part of the problem for Mercedes is that they haven’t had to defend in years, the Brackley squad the pace-setters eight years running.
This season it’s a very different story with Red Bull coming to the fore in the new ground-effect aerodynamic era.
“For years Mercedes had the best car and they’ve never really been cornered,” he said.
“They were defensive on Sunday whereas Red Bull were aggressive and went on the attack.
“When you defend, your choices are never decisive and you only win when the other makes mistakes.”
Toto Wolff defends Mercedes’ strategists
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff concedes in “hindsight” Mercedes perhaps made the wrong call but it was one their calculations said would work.
With Hamilton revealing he “thought ‘oh shit'” when he saw the tyre blankets come off Verstappen’s car and reveal the soft Pirellis, the Briton feels Mercedes should have at least put himself and Russell on different strategies.
But with the team’s simulations saying something different, Mercedes stuck to their pre-race decision.
“I think the one-stop, medium-hard, looked like the right strategy,” Wolff said as per Motorsport.com. “That the medium held on for so long at the end came as a surprise.
“But hindsight is the thing. If we were to restart the race, maybe we would choose a different tyre.”
He also concedes that maybe they could have taken the option to “lose more time on the medium and hang it out there for another five or six laps, and then try to do 30 laps on the soft”.
That was the option that Ricciardo went for, 44 laps on the mediums and 26 on the softs.
Wolff, though, says it was “not a given that the tyre would hold on”.