Mercedes label Qatar crash a ‘mistake’ but say team not to blame

Sam Cooper
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton looks on at his crashed Q14 during the Qatar Grand Prix.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton looks on at his crashed W14 during the Qatar Grand Prix.

Mercedes have denied they gave their drivers team orders in Qatar, suggesting the crash was “simply a mistake.”

The Silver Arrows staff would have had their heads in their hands early on as Lewis Hamilton attempted to pass team-mate George Russell into Turn 1 but left his fellow Brit with no room.

The two made contact, sending Hamilton out of the race and Russell spinning to the back of the pack but Mercedes say they warned their drivers this could happen.

Lewis Hamilton tyre choice a calculated risk for Mercedes

The situation was hoisted upon Mercedes after the FIA demanded that all tyres be limited to 18 laps due to safety concerns. Having run a number of medium tyres during free practice, this meant Hamilton was one driver more limited than most in terms of race options and as a result, Mercedes had to get creative with strategy.

“Of all the drivers on the grid, Lewis had the most limited options available in terms of his race tyres and in particular in terms of the medium compound,” Trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said.

“This was in part due to the laps that we did on Friday morning, before we had any awareness that there might be an issue with the tyres.

“The medium tyre that he was going to run was so short on life it was actually very similar in range to the soft.

“Given that George had got a very good start with the soft the day before, it also went very well on the safety car restarts, we elected to start Lewis on the soft tyre because of that better grip off the line. There was also unlikely to be any downsides in terms of range.”

But while Hamilton started on the soft, Russell was on the medium and Mercedes admitted they knew a quick overtake could be a possibility. They did however deny issuing any team orders to either of the drivers.

“We discussed the start tyre choice with both drivers on Sunday morning and there was always going to be a chance that Lewis on the soft tyre was going to get a better start and overtake George before Turn 1. That was always considered but they were aware they were on different strategies.

“It was important they didn’t lose time racing each other and that was clear but we weren’t imposing team orders in the race. What happened at Turn 1 was simply a mistake.” recommends

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While Hamilton crashed out, Russell recovered to finish P4 and his performance was praised by Shovlin.

“The car itself was pretty much unscathed and you could see that in his race pace. It was a very strong recovery drive, able to go from the very back to fourth place at the chequered flag.

“The early predications [after the crash] were coming in at back of the points, but not scoring many. As the race went on, those predictions got better and better. Ultimately, they ended indicating that he would finish fourth place.

“Well, what changed that? He was able to overtake, he was able to get through some key cars early on and also once he got into free air, we could see that the race pace was actually really good. That was the thing that allowed him to make up so many places. On top of that, the strategy team did a great job of re-optimizing the race, trying to make the most of a bad situation and fourth was a great reward for their efforts.”

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