Mercedes explain key Saudi Arabian GP tactical decision they regret with hindsight

Michelle Foster
George Russell and Lewis Hamilton speaking in parc ferme

Mercedes have yet to secure a podium finish in 2024

One of only two teams that didn’t double stack their drivers in Saudi Arabia, Andrew Shovlin concedes that in hindsight that was the wrong call.

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix saw the first Safety Car of the 2024 championship when Lance Stroll binned his Aston Martin early in the race.

Mercedes opted not to double stack the drivers in Jeddah

There was a scurry into the pits for the drivers to change their tyres, every one of the teams except Mercedes and McLaren going for the double stack.

That elevated Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton up the order with the McLaren driver leading several laps.

But when they pitted, they dropped down the order and finished eighth and ninth with Norris ahead of Hamilton.

Shovlin, Mercedes’ trackside engineering director, admits looking back at the race, they should’ve double stacked Hamilton behind George Russell.

“With the benefit of hindsight, yes, we would have done that,” he said in the Mercedes debrief.

Shovlin explains Mercedes’ reasoning for not double stacking

But explaining why Mercedes opted not to, he says not only were they covering their bases should there be another Safety Car but they were concerned that if they stopped Hamilton it would be even longer given he’d have to wait for a queue of cars to come down the pit lane.

“Now, what we didn’t know at the time was whether there would be another incident. And the other thing we didn’t know, which is how durable the tyres were going to be,” he continued.

“But that Safety Car that landed around lap seven, that was right on the point where we’re deciding whether we come in or not with both cars. Had it been lap eight, lap nine, then probably we would have done.

“The downside if you were Lewis, as the car behind, is that you need to build a gap and you’re not allowed to do that. You can’t just push people back on track when there is a Safety Car.

“They obviously can’t overtake you because you’ll get a penalty for obstructing them. So when George is being serviced in the box, Lewis would have had a wait.

“You’ve also got cars coming down the pit lane where if there’s a queue of cars coming down the pit lane, we can’t release George and Lewis is stuck there, and it was simply that we felt he would lose time.

“However, we were also covering our bases that if there was another Safety Car later on in the race, he would have been able to take the benefit from that. And then you’ve got cars on offset strategies.

“So as I said, if we knew what would have happened subsequently, for sure we’d have done them both. It would have been the right thing for Lewis.

“But at that point that it that it landed was right at the point of the race where we would have done just one and then two laps later would have done them both.”

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But while Shovlin admits a double stack is more complicated than a normal pit stop, he says Mercedes do practice it.

“It’s a bit more complicated for the crew because they’ve got to get both sets of tyres out in the pit lane,” he said.

“So there’s more tyres around and it is busy because when you’re servicing one car you’ve got the rear jack man there, then he’s got to get out the way very quickly after releasing it for the next car to come in.

“However, you do practice those sorts of scenarios. The issue is more that you can’t do it as quickly. The risk is that you lose some time.

“And as I touched on before, if there’s a queue of cars coming down the pit lane and the first car can’t get out, then the second car has to wait. And then when he’s ready, if there’s more cars, he’s got to wait even longer.”

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