Mercedes explain the VSC strategy error with Hamilton

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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

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I agree with you telling everyone to cool it with calling for Allison to be fired. Merc has made two bad calls with the VSC this year (for some reason they don’t understand that you lose less time in the pit when the other cars are going by slowly) but each of the Big Three teams makes mistakes almost every week. Ferrari usually waits too long to pit, Merc doesn’t know how to handle race interruptions like safety cars, and the Red Bulls seem to be the best at capitalizing if they don’t have the outright pace, if they haven’t… Read more »


Yeah, it definitely looked to me like the Ferrari is easier on the tires. Maybe due to the characteristics of the chassis, maybe due to the philosophy of the engineers, or maybe because of their decisions based on the weather after FP3. Max had less trouble than Dan but as he was cruising serenely out in front he probably didn’t stress that left rear as much.

I cant wait to hear you and Paul break it down because WHAT A RACE. Drama, passing, Kimi pushing for a win and passing cars on track. It was a barn burner.


“…to call for the sacking of a chief strategist over ONE race error…”

Are you deliberately trying to mislead. Cause this ain’t Vowles first cock-up. This has been happening since 2015 and the team still insist on having a single strategist for both garages. Something Hamilton wanted changed since 2015. Every year Vowles costs him 50-70 points and he wanted a strategist for his side the garage only like every other team in the garage does it.


I’m out. I’ll leave you to your bland site and podcast. If you’re going to continue to incessantly troll Hamilton, at least present the facts straight….and grow pair. I see your true colors. Sad you have to resort to threats.


You’re such a closet Hamilton hater. You think because you troll him constantly with a laugh people don’t get it? I challenge you to run this site for 2 weeks without Hamilton material. Traffic will halt to zero. All you do is feed the haters, cause that’s what drives traffic and then you get all bent out of shape when one Hamilton fan calls you out on it. I just watched Legards hack of a video. Hamilton “fumes” “ANGRY” “WHINY”…etc Talk about an axe to grind!


Dude, I thought you said you were out. Just take your attitude and leave already, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.


Don’t worry I’m gone. I leave your Hamilton trolling site disguised as a F1 forum in peace.


Wow, are u suggesting Vowles costed Lewis at least 3 races victories in a season for the last last 3 seasons. Stop and think for a second, the prima donna that Hamilton is, do you really believe he would have put up with it for a season let alone three! I don’t know where you got your information from, but it ain’t correct.


Here’s your prime audience right there Todd. Feed him! Feed him! He needs more Hamilton bashing content. In his alternative facts universe, A VSC strategy blunder didn’t cost Hamilton the win in Australia.


There are people who will find fault at anything Hamilton says…we call them haters. Then there are people who will also find fault at anything Hamilton but don’t have the balls to present it as their own opinion. They present as so and so said this about Hamilton. I would call those people cowards. They’re worst than haters. At least haters have conviction.

saviour stivala

Arrow044. You sure a LULU FAN BOY.


Seems to me that the whole VSC/PIT question would be a good situation for an AI answer. The data are all there in real time and I’m sure IBM’s Watson (or some other vendor – I am NOT and IBM fanboy ;-) ) can provide the “Box/Don’t Box” answer in milliseconds. And actually learn from its mistakes. Anybody know whether they’re doing this already? I know Merc blamed “the algorithm” earlier this year…