Why Mercedes asked Hamilton about Miami GP strategy

Jon Wilde
Mercedes duo George Russell and Lewis Hamilton head a train of cars. Miami May 2022.

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes head a train of cars. Miami May 2022.

Mercedes have explained their reasoning for the pit stop strategy question in Miami that mystified Lewis Hamilton.

The seven-time former World Champion was perplexed both during and after the inaugural Miami Grand Prix as to why his team had asked him to make a call on whether he should ‘box’ behind the Safety Car for a second set of new tyres.

In a post-race interview, Hamilton, who went on to finish sixth, one place behind his team-mate George Russell, said: “In that scenario I have no clue where everyone is, so when the team say it’s your choice I don’t have the information to make the decision.

“That’s what your job is, make the decision for me – you’ve got all the details, I don’t. That’s what you rely on the guys for but today they gave it to me and I don’t understand it, but anyways…”

Team principal Toto Wolff subsequently said Hamilton’s strategy had been “between a rock and a hard place” and described it as a “50-50” decision – and in Mercedes’ post-race debrief, technical director Mike Elliott backed up that assessment, saying there had been simply no obvious “right or wrong answer”.

“The Virtual Safety Car came first and we pitted George, exactly the right thing to do,” said Elliott, referring to it being Russell’s only stop of the race as he had run on his original set of hard tyres up to that point.

“We were then in this position where we would have had quite a big gap between Valtteri [Bottas], closely followed by Lewis, with George a chunk behind.

“At that stage of the race, with both Valtteri and Lewis on hard tyres, Lewis was closing into the back of Valtteri and was going to have a chance to overtake on track for a normal racing pass, and that’s what we expected the race to sort of pan out.

“But that VSC very quickly turned into a full Safety Car and at that point it was close all the gaps up, compress the field back up and we were going to be in a position where George was on brand-new mediums against ageing hard tyres on Lewis and also on Valtteri.

“So we were caught between a rock and a hard place. The Safety Car came at completely the wrong time for Lewis. If we didn’t ‘pit’ him he was always going to have George behind him on much newer tyres. If we did pit him, he would lose track position to George and end up behind George on track.

“Although Lewis would have had new tyres, the only new tyres we had available were hards or softs and while you might think the softs would have been a good solution, we knew they would overheat very quickly – and even more quickly because he would have been just behind George fighting on track and that would have put even more heat into the tyres.


“So there was no sort of real right answer. If you were watching on TV, you would have seen us asking Lewis that question, what did he think he wanted to do? That was just because there was no right or wrong answer and sometimes the drivers have a better feel in the car than we as engineers do looking at the data.

“The circumstances that took place meant Lewis lost out because of the Safety Car. Unfortunately, Lewis had been unlucky a couple of times already this season, but it’s just the way things pan out and hopefully over the season it balances up and he will have some advantages that come to him through the timings of the Safety Cars in future races.”


Hamilton left puzzled by Mercedes pit wall

Lewis Hamilton had admitted to not understanding why the Mercedes pit-wall were asking him to make a decisive strategy call.