Jolyon Palmer: Mercedes’ sub-optimal strategy calls becoming ‘a recurring theme’

Jon Wilde
George Russell's Mercedes on medium tyres. Mexico City October 2022.

George Russell's Mercedes on medium tyres during the Mexican Grand Prix. Mexico City October 2022.

Ex-F1 driver Jolyon Palmer feels Mercedes’ failure to nail the ideal race strategy is becoming “a recurring theme”.

Mercedes started second and third on the grid for the Mexican Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton going on to finish runner-up to Max Verstappen while George Russell dropped behind Sergio Perez to cross the line fourth.

Hamilton was keeping Verstappen well within sight during the opening stages, only 1.2 seconds behind after six laps, but ultimately lost touch and came home 15 seconds adrift of the double World Champion.

Russell, meanwhile, had his vain pursuit of Perez ended when he was brought in for a late pit-stop to chase the fastest-lap point, which he collected for the second consecutive grand prix and third time this year.

Former F1 racer Palmer thinks Mercedes may need to brush up on their strategy calls if they are to win for the first time this year at either of the two remaining grands prix, with Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto having said the Silver Arrows also let a good chance slip at the previous race in the United States.

Referring to Verstappen’s margin of victory in Mexico, Palmer told the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast: “It looked more than it should have been, because Mercedes didn’t maximise what they could do.

“I feel like it’s a little bit of a recurring theme sometimes for Mercedes… they are close, they are nearly there.

“I think if they had maximised it at Zandvoort they could have won. It was a bit of a tough one with the Safety Car calls [there] – quick thinking, quick reactions. Here, I just don’t really understand what they did with Russell particularly.”

Which aspect of Mercedes’ strategy did Jolyon Palmer disagree with?

By that, Palmer meant Mercedes not calling Russell in for a set of soft tyres much earlier than they did in order to give him a chance of catching and passing Perez for third, rather than merely the fastest lap, because they would have seen Daniel Ricciardo making strong progress on the red-marked rubber.

“They had data from others,” said the former Renault driver. “Ricciardo provided great data for everyone else really, having a good run on the softs at the end, clearing cars – they will know what sort of pace difference you had to have with soft tyres and a Mercedes engine in the back as well.

“They would be able to simulate that and know roughly what would have happened and they will do that.

“It might have been that Ricciardo put on the softs and they were just awful and it didn’t work – it was a gamble.

“That’s why I think with Hamilton, I understand why they covered off Perez because if they had gone for softs they would have sacrificed track position of second, Hamilton would then have had to pass Perez before he could have a go at Verstappen and that’s what you are trying to do by going for the softs.

“The Hamilton one I think is a justifiable decision. I don’t think it was the right one in hindsight but you can see the logic to it.

“For me, the Russell one, I don’t see the logic – it looks like a really odd decision pitting him into a nothingy race for the rest.”

Read more: Conclusions from Max Verstappen’s record-breaking win at the Mexican Grand Prix