Mercedes explain Japanese Grand Prix strategy after Lewis Hamilton’s ‘change it!’ command

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton leads George Russell in Mercedes formation

Lewis Hamilton ahead of George Russell.

Spoilt for choice with two sets of hard tyres, Mercedes have downplayed Lewis Hamilton’s strategy complaints as they tried for what would’ve effectively been a one-stop strategy excluding the red flag.

Although Pirelli had detailed that a two-stop strategy would be the fastest way to the finish line at the Japanese Grand Prix, an early red flag for Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon’s Turn 2 crash on the opening lap threw a spanner in the works.

Lewis Hamilton: Change the strategy!

Restarting for what would be a 50-lap Grand Prix, Mercedes put Hamilton and his team-mate George Russell, lining up seventh and ninth, on the hard tyres to open the door for a one stop strategy.

But overtaken by Lando Norris, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz pretty much in formation, Hamilton wasn’t happy with the call.

Hamilton: “Change the strategy!”
Bono: “Copy Lewis. We’re just waiting for the window to clear.”

With their tyres degrading Mercedes brought first Russell and then Hamilton in after a long first stint, the duo pitting again late in the race.

That later stop paid dividends for Russell as he was able to overtake Oscar Piastri on the final lap to finish seventh, Hamilton though was P9.

Mercedes have defended their decision.

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“With our tyre allocation (2 Hard, 1 Medium), we were able to give ourselves the possibility of looking at either a one or a two stop after the red flag. Hence the hard tyre restart,” the team explained.

“Ultimately, as the race progressed, the tyre degradation showed that the two-stop was going to be the quickest way to the flag.

“Our second and third stints showed solid pace compared to those around us, including the McLarens and the Ferraris.

“We knew that Suzuka would not be our strongest track though and, with time lost being overtaken on the offset strategy (one of the downsides of this strategy), we couldn’t make it back to P6 which was likely the maximum today.”

Mercedes are up to 34 points, but remain fourth in the Constructors’ Championship and a single point ahead of Aston Martin. They are over 100 behind Red Bull.

Read next: Japanese GP: Max Verstappen back in cruise control as Daniel Ricciardo’s nightmare continues