Mercedes explain team order hesitation

Date published: July 7 2021 - Finley Crebolder

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes

Mercedes have explained why, despite Lewis Hamilton having damage, team orders weren’t immediately issued at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen was in a league of his own at the Red Bull Ring but things were much closer behind him, with the Mercedes drivers locked in a tight battle with the McLaren of Lando Norris.

Hamilton looked as if he’d take P2, but then he ran wide on a kerb, damaging his car, causing him to be caught by Bottas and Norris.

With the Finn much quicker and under pressure from the McLaren, it was expected that Hamilton would quickly be told to move aside for his team-mate,

However, that wasn’t immediately the case, with the team instead telling Bottas to hold position before issuing team orders a few laps later.

Engineering director Andrew Shovlin has now explained the decision.

“Well, initially once we diagnosed the performance problem on Lewis’s car, we were just seeing where his lap times actually stabilised but it came clear pretty early on that he was going to find it impossible to defend against Lando Norris behind,” in the Mercedes Youtube debrief.

“We were worried that Valtteri in the middle of that battle was going to ultimately be vulnerable, but what we were waiting for was just for Lando to actually get close enough where he was a risk to Valtteri and that was what triggered our decision to invert the order.

“So, you saw Lewis let Valtteri get by, and then ultimately Lando was able to overtake Lewis, but as I said, once we understood the extent of the damage, we concluded pretty early on that hanging on to that third place was going to be effectively impossible.”

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Hamilton had been quicker than Bottas all weekend, but immediately suffered a drop in pace as soon as he picked up the damage.

Shovlin says the Brit lost over half a second per lap, and what’s more, the issue caused his tyre to degrade much faster.

“The estimates that are coming in were around 30 to 40 points of downforce. That translates to around six or seven-tenths of a second per lap, so quite a substantial amount,” said Shovlin.

“But even worse here, it all came off the rear axle so Lewis had a lot of oversteer on that stint, the backend of the car is sliding around, it’s heating the tyres and wearing the tyres and that problem starts to compound itself with higher rates of degradation

“So ultimately it cost Lewis the P2 position.”

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