Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has explained what he thinks happened in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix that left Lewis Hamilton on track as his rivals all pitted for fresh tires during Virtual Safety Car session.
“What I think happened was we were running one and two and controlling the race, and suddenly you see your second car stopping,” said team boss Toto Wolff.
“The VSC came out, we had half a lap to react, and we didn’t. Fact. This is where we lost the race.
“At that stage of the race with the VSC, pitting is probably 80% the thing you need to do.
“With one car out there against two others, the thinking process that happened was, ‘what would happen if the others pitted a car?’
“We would come out behind Kimi [Raikkonen] because they would leave Kimi out and behind Max [Verstappen]. What would that mean for the race?
“That whole thinking loop I wouldn’t say distracted us, but we spent too much time on that.
“For me, [this is] the most painful day in my years at Mercedes, worse than Barcelona.
“I had plenty of people coming to see me before the start and saying, ‘This was going to be a walk in the park, one-two, you have the quickest car.’
“This is exactly how motor racing can go. It can be very cruel and we had all the cruelty go against us today.”
I’ve seen many folks calling for James Vowels and/or James Allison to be fired for the incident and to be honest, I find that very odd. After Mercedes has delivered four titles in as many years, to call for the sacking of a chief strategist over one race error I find very strange and I’m a Ferrari fan for crying out loud.
I spent most of the day defending Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton after F1 journalist Jonathan Legard made a hasty video lamenting Lewis Hamilton’s proclivity for giving up when things don’t go his way and being terse with his team over the radio. Doesn’t make me a virtuous hero or better than other F1 fans but I find that really a bit harsh given it was one race error and Ferrari have already had two or three of those this season alone that cost them dearly.
What I do know about Lewis is that he doesn’t give up and he hates, and I mean hates, losing. What I also know about Mercedes is they have some fiercly brilliant people working at that team and in race strategy. They got it wrong today and have done so in the past but in aggregate, they deliver success.
Also, the time they had to ferret out four other rival’s strategies during the VSC and how they might play out was very short…half a lap, maybe. IF you can determine the ultimate strategy in half a lap for five cars given their respective track positions, tire health and race pace then truly you belong on a team wall and not on the couch at your home.
Mercedes got it wrong and Ferrari benefitted but let’s look at that shall we? As a Ferrari fan, they cocked up the weekend and Sebastian should be walking away from this weekend with a race victory and his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, right on his tail on the second step of the podium but they didn’t. Ferrari didn’t even swap Kimi and Seb costing the German more points in the title chase which made a lot of Ferrari detractors happy but Sebastian fans were nonplussed by it.
It only went really well for Red Bull and Max Verstappen who handed the team an unexpected win at their home race by capitalizing on Mercedes and Ferrari’s errors. Even Red Bull nearly screwed their own chances with a DNF by Ricciardo which prompted them to turn down the wick on Max’s car for fear of a similar failure. That would have left an even bigger gift for a struggling Ferrari.
I think we need to be somewhat realistic about what happened in Austria before we start calling for Mercedes to kick their strategists and race engineers to the curb (Kerb for my British friends).
Hat Tip: Autosport