Toto Wolff thinks Red Bull missed a trick at the Belgian Grand Prix that could have upset Mercedes’ 1-2 finish.
In a race that was largely uneventful apart from a spectacular crash involving Antonio Giovinazzi and George Russell, the World Champions enjoyed the perfect afternoon as Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finished first and second at Spa.
But the Mercedes team principal thought there had been a chance for third-placed Max Verstappen, the only other driver with remotely the same pace, to muscle his way onto the second step of the podium had Red Bull made a different strategy call.
Most teams opted to stop their cars only once, generally under the Safety Car for the Giovinazzi-Russell accident, which was earlier than ideal and left many of the runners nursing their tyres towards the end.
In reviewing his team’s race on Sky Sports, Wolff opined that if Red Bull had tried the ‘undercut’ with a second stop for Verstappen, it might have worked to their advantage.
“I think the pace was good, nothing really to say negatively about that,” said Wolff.
“A little bit of sweat at the end as the tyres were really coming towards the end of their life because the stint was so long.
“I think it was the same for Max and in that respect everybody started to manage the pace and protect the tyres.
“I think Red Bull could have forced us into stopping at a certain stage. We were only 1.2sec in front of Max and the undercut would have been two seconds, so I think they could have gained a position [P2] and probably have been all over us at the end.
“It wouldn’t have stopped Lewis but it would have been a risk to us finishing first and third.”
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Hamilton admitted he had feared for his race win late on due to the degradation of his tyres and had flashbacks to the British Grand Prix, when he limped home to victory with a puncture.
“It wasn’t the easiest of races. I had a lock-up into Turn 5 which started to give a bit of a vibration and then one into the last corner,” he explained.
“The tyre temperatures were slowly dropping no matter how much you were pushing. You lose rubber and then you start to lose temperature in the tyres, so it was a bit of a struggle.
“I was a little bit nervous that we might have a scenario like Silverstone with that right front towards the end, so I was nursing it.
“It looks like the tyre has plenty of rubber on it so maybe it was fine and I was all worried for nothing.”