Mercedes have explained why they did not pit Lewis Hamilton during the Safety Car period of the Miami Grand Prix, and have also revealed their reasons for asking Hamilton for his input on the strategy call.
A Virtual Safety Car was called following a collision between Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly on Lap 41 of 57, which was timed well for George Russell, who was able to pit for Medium tyres.
This helped the Briton to overtake teammate Hamilton for P5, with Hamilton having stayed out on an older set of Hard tyres.
Why didn’t Mercedes pit Hamilton?
Mike Elliott, Technical Director at Mercedes, has since explained in a race debrief video from the team why they did not bring Hamilton in for a pit-stop.
“The VSC came first, and we pitted George, exactly the right thing to do,” Elliott explained.
“We were then in this position where we would have had quite a big gap between Valtteri [Bottas], closely followed by Lewis, with George a chunk behind.
“At that stage of the race, with both Valtteri and Lewis on the Hard tyre, Lewis was closing into the back of Valtteri and was going to have a chance to overtake on track for a normal racing pass, and that’s what we expected the race to sort of pan out.
“But that Virtual Safety Car very quickly turned into a full Safety Car, and at that point it was [going to] close all the gaps up, compress the field back up, and we were going to be in a position where George was on a brand-new Medium, against an ageing Hard tyre on Lewis and an ageing Hard tyre on Valtteri.
“So, we were caught between a rock and a hard place.”
© RN365/Michael Potts
Safety Car came at “completely wrong time” for Hamilton
Elliott admits that the timing of the Safety Car was not helpful for Hamilton.
“The Safety Car came at the completely wrong time for Lewis,” he said.
“If we didn’t pit him, he was always going to have George behind him on a much newer tyre. If we did pit him, he would lose track position to George, he would end up behind George on track.
“Although Lewis would have had a new tyre, the only new tyres we had available to us was the Hard or the Soft, and while you might think the Soft would have been a good solution, we knew that the Soft tyre would overheat very quickly.
“We knew it would overheat even more quickly because he was just behind George fighting on track, and that would have put even more heat into the tyres.”
Why did Mercedes ask Hamilton about strategy call?
As this situation played out in the race, Mercedes were heard to ask Hamilton over the radio whether he wanted to pit.
The seven-time World Champion suggested in his response that it was the team’s decision to make, and he opted to stay out on the Hard tyres.
“We were in that position where we were sort of caught between a rock and a hard place, and there was no sort of real right answer,” Elliott added.
“And if you were watching the TV, you would have seen us asking Lewis that question, what did he think he wanted to do? That was just because there was no right or wrong answer, and sometimes the drivers have a better feel in the car than we as the engineers do looking at the data.
“So, as it happened, it was just the circumstances that took place meant Lewis lost out because of the Safety Car.
“Unfortunately, Lewis has been unlucky a couple of times already this season, but it is just the way that things pan out and hopefully over the season it balances up, and he will have some advantages that come to him through the timings of the Safety Cars in future races.”