If Mercedes were to have any chance of winning the Dutch GP, then ex-racer Jolyon Palmer felt double stacking their cars was that one shot.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen went on to claim victory in front of his home crowd, though it required a late overtake on a very unhappy Lewis Hamilton.
Mercedes decided to split their approach, George Russell pitting at his request for soft tyres behind the Safety Car, though with Verstappen also pitting for soft tyres, Mercedes kept track position with Hamilton on the medium rubber.
Hamilton then led at the restart but was swamped by Verstappen before even reaching Turn 1, ultimately falling off the podium and crossing the line P4.
Palmer believes that if Mercedes had not have gone with different strategies for their drivers, then a double podium was on the cards, while he felt that removing Russell’s presence also did very little to help Hamilton’s cause.
“It was a risky play, but I can understand why Mercedes wanted to keep track position,” said Palmer as he reviewed the Dutch GP for F1TV.
“Zandvoort wasn’t the easiest circuit to overtake on and they’re winning a race, with not that many remaining in the season, they’ve got themselves into a good position and they had great race pace.
“Where it went wrong slightly for Mercedes was they split strategies, George Russell pushed for the stop to go for the soft tyres, and that put Verstappen in second, took away Hamilton’s buffer, and I think regardless, Lewis wasn’t going to be able to hold on to Max, you could see the grip on the restart that Verstappen had over Hamilton and he in fact even fell off the podium.
“Even with the buffer there, it wasn’t going to work, but taking Russell out of the equation just made it a slam dunk for Verstappen over Hamilton, and Lewis wasn’t very happy about that.
“So, the split strategies cost Lewis Hamilton and allowed George Russell into second.”
Although Verstappen and Red Bull were in a strong position, Palmer felt that Mercedes potentially had a trump card in the form of a double stack.
If Russell had have held Verstappen up slightly on the way into the pits, the Safety Car taking the drivers through the pit lane, then Palmer felt this could have given Hamilton those precious few extra seconds to pit and come out ahead of Verstappen, still leading the race.
“If Hamilton had have pitted as well as Russell, then you would have had, by the end of the race, the two Mercedes’ finishing second and third,” Palmer suggested.
“A better outcome than what they achieved, but they would have just slotted in behind Max Verstappen, probably unable to pass him, soft tyre to soft tyre on the Red Bull ahead with that good straight-line speed.
“So, at this point it’s looking quite tricky for Mercedes to win regardless of the outcome, one thing that might have been their magic bullet, would be to stack the cars.
“We can ride onboard with Max, as George Russell is about to come into the pits, Russell ahead, Nicholas Latifi is the car ahead of George Russell, and then you’ve got Lewis Hamilton leading the race at this point.
“What they could do, potentially, Mercedes, because everyone was coming through the pits, if they decided to pit Hamilton and Russell, then possibly George could have just backed up, backed into Max Verstappen, giving a little bit more space to both Hamilton and Latifi.
“And if they had have done that, there’s a chance that Russell might have been able to back Verstappen up to the point that Hamilton could then emerge and rejoin ahead of Max and in the lead of the race, in which case Hamilton is your favourite for the race win.”
By virtue of his victory on home soil, Verstappen now leads the Drivers’ Championship with an advantage of 109 points over Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez. Seven rounds remain in the 2022 season.