Mercedes say Lewis Hamilton would have effectively been a sitting duck to the chasing pack at the Safety Car restart at Silverstone, had he not switched onto soft tyres at that point.
Hamilton had enough of a buffer in third to pit and still come out in front of Sergio Perez, who was among the drivers who also pitted for soft rubber to create what turned into a stunning climax to the British Grand Prix.
Esteban Ocon’s retirement prompted Hamilton and others to prepare for a 10-lap sprint to the finish and the seven-time World Champion was able to keep his place on the podium, passing a disgruntled Charles Leclerc on older hard tyres in a scintillating battle, having been overtaken himself by Perez.
Carlos Sainz was able to ease away at the front while the battle raged from P2 to P6, with five cars from five different teams all battling it out for position in the closing stages – in a thrilling finish which Ross Brawn dubbed the “perfect demonstration” of how the 2022 regulations were designed to work.
Sunday's top three all trail their team-mates in the standings, but took sizeable chunks out of their advantage 🔢
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) July 4, 2022
But Mercedes feel that Hamilton would not have been able to fight the way he did had he stayed on hard tyres, even if it did give him favourable track position.
A Mercedes engineer explained to Auto Motor und Sport: “We had much bigger problems warming up our tyres compared to Ferrari. Lewis would not have had a chance with the hard tyres after the restart against the others on the soft tyres.
“It was always clear to us that we would have used the safety car to switch to soft tyres under all circumstances.”
Hamilton was right on the pace of the frontrunners during the race, setting several fastest laps in succession as he looked to close down the two Ferrari drivers at the front.
The Safety Car came out as he was reeling them in, and when presented with the hypothetical scenario about what would have happened if the yellow flags were not waved, Mercedes were confident of a P2 finish.
“Sainz we would have still got. With Leclerc it would have been difficult,” the Mercedes engineer said.
Hamilton’s podium coupled with the retirement of George Russell moved him to within 18 points of his younger team-mate, taking a second podium finish in a row in the process.