Mercedes have revealed their reasoning behind not taking a gamble on switching Lewis Hamilton to a set of intermediates early during the Monaco GP.
Hamilton appeared to be a lead contender for an early switch to the intermediate tyre during the early stages of the Monaco Grand Prix, as the conditions improved from requiring the full wet tyre at the race start.
The Mercedes driver, a master in mixed conditions, was circulating down in eighth place, cooped up behind Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, when Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly both chose to pit for the intermediates on Lap 6 and Lap 2 respectively.
But it took until Lap 15 for Hamilton to pit for the intermediate, coming out behind Alpine’s Esteban Ocon – Hamilton then engaged in a spirited fight with the French driver that resulted in two moments of contact and a damaged front wing for the Mercedes driver.
Given that Gasly was able to make progress on the intermediate tyre with overtakes on Zhou Guanyu and Daniel Ricciardo, Mercedes explained why they decided against bringing Hamilton in until Lap 15.
“It was all about what was happening behind Lewis on track, and he never actually had a clear stop window,” Mercedes’ Andrew Shovlin explained in the team’s official post-race debrief.
“If he had a clear window, we would have definitely done it earlier and we knew that the intermediate would perform well.
“The question is, can a car on intermediates overtake a car on wets? And we saw with Lewis – when we eventually went for that – with Esteban, it was a very difficult thing to do.”
Mercedes chose not to bring George Russell in during the transition phase from wets to intermediates and, instead, left their young charge out until Lap 21. Rather than fitting the intermediate, the team went straight for the hard compound.
Splitting the strategic approach to the tyre changes, Shovlin explained why that choice had been made and why Russell had been kept out for longer.
“The reality was the cars around them and what their race situation was,” he said.
“With George, had he done that, he would have dropped two positions on track and, at Monaco, you don’t want to lose those positions because, if you can’t get through, there is no way of recovering it.
“With Lewis, it was really that we had nothing to lose. We could see that the Alpines were going to try and get through with Alonso from wets straight to slicks so we decided to give it a go.
“It all hinged on whether Lewis could recover that position he was going to drop to Esteban, and whether there was anything to gain by being able to post quicker times on those intermediate tyres but it was really down to the differing situations between the cars and who would lose the most places doing the extra stop.”
Russell would go on to finish the race in fifth, with Hamilton coming home in eighth.