Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff says the team choosing to risk Lewis Hamilton at the end of the Dutch Grand Prix by not pitting him was “the right thing to do” to challenge for the race win.
The team elected to not pit Hamilton during the final Safety Car period while he was on Medium tyres, while Red Bull chose to pit Max Verstappen for a set of Softs to finish the race.
George Russell also made the call to pit for Soft tyres, leaving Hamilton irate over the team radio as he accused the team of messing up his race.
Wolff says it was the right call to keep track position with Hamilton and try to win the race, rather than concede track position for a podium.
“We discussed in a moment, are we taking risk for the race win? Yes, we’re taking risks. And he had a tyre that was five laps old from the Medium, holding position was the right thing to do,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1.
“At the end it didn’t work out for him but I’d rather take the risk to win the race with Lewis than finish second or third.”
Hamilton ultimately dropped back to fourth having been overtaken by Russell and Charles Leclerc towards the end.
Win would’ve been on without VSC, says Wolff
Mercedes chose an aggressive strategy to pit both their drivers for Hard tyres for one stop and go to the end, which also caused Red Bull and Ferrari to re-asses their strategies.
Had the Virtual Safety Car had not been brought out by Yuki Tsunoda, Wolff believes they would’ve had a “fair shot” at the race win.
“The simulation said that Max would’ve come out eight seconds behind us with 20 laps to go,” Wolff told media, including RacingNews365.com.
“But obviously he would have probably pitted on the Hard at that time, and I think we would’ve had a fair shot to win the race. I said ‘The win is on. Tight, but on.'”
In this scenario, Wolff believes Verstappen would’ve caught both Mercedes drivers within the final six laps of the race.
Mercedes lacking straight-line speed
As was evidenced at Spa Francorchamps, Mercedes were lacking straight-line speed which Wolff believes is ultimately what stopped Hamilton from being able to defend from Verstappen and take the win.
He added: “I think what we need to look at is that we’re lacking straight line speed, our cars is too draggy.”
“Before we fix that, it’s going to be very difficult to fight with them on on straight line, especially on a track where it’s difficult to overtake. Never say never, but probability is less than 50%.”