Mercedes principal Toto Wolff admits that the team were caught out by the power of the undercut at the Singapore Grand Prix.
With drivers going slow from the start to save their tyres, finding a gap to pit into was proving tricky. Ferrari managed it though with Sebastian Vettel who ultimately went on to claim victory.
However, Mercedes decided to keep Lewis Hamilton out, who had been running ahead of Vettel in P2 at the time, but the pace advantage provided by the undercut meant that Hamilton dropped behind Vettel and Max Verstappen after his stop.
He would have even come out P5 behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas if the Finn hadn’t have been told to slow down to avoid that happening.
It wasn’t Mercedes’ finest hour in the strategy department, and Wolff admits that they were caught out by the effectiveness of the undercut.
“We discussed the undercut but there was the risk of being caught up in traffic,” he told Sky Sports.
“Vettel’s team did it right, they had nothing to lose, and I think everybody was surprised by how strong the undercut was.”
Ferrari pitted Vettel into a gap between Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg, but when asked why Mercedes didn’t do the same for Hamilton, Wolff claimed that the position had already been lost to Vettel by that stage.
“At that point we had already lost the position to Sebastian,” he confirmed.
“You lose the win and then we tried to do the opposite and go a bit longer, Lewis was saying the tyre was in good shape and we knew they were eventually going to catch up onto the traffic.
“Lots of assumptions and all was different, our tyre just wore off, it wasn’t competitive at all anymore and this is why we ended up nowhere.”
There were three Safety Cars in the race, and Wolff said that the Silver Arrows had no pace at the restarts, making it even more difficult for Hamilton to recover ground.
“I think we always had too many Safety Cars, once we got going we had a fast car, but I think enthasis on once we got going, because we didn’t get going,” Wolff vented.
“Slow car out of the blocks at the beginning, after every single restart we were lacking pace and that’s the harsh reality.”
Now that Ferrari have shown they can perform on a technical track that wasn’t expected to suit them, Wolff made it clear that Mercedes are aware of the threat they pose for the rest of 2019.
“Yes, you have to be worried and on your toes all the time,” he said.
“They have won the last three races and you can’t rest on your laurels from the beginning of the season because that can catch you out.”