Mercedes will regroup at their Brackley headquarters on Tuesday morning to continue their postmortem on one of the most glaring errors in the history of Formula One.
Their decision to pit Lewis Hamilton for a second tyre change in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix cost the British driver a certain victory that would have been his fourth in six races and extended his lead in the world championship. Mercedes’ embarrassment would have been a great deal worse had Hamilton fully expressed his intense frustrations and Toto Wolff has acknowledged a new maturity in the world champion.
The Mercedes chief said: “Compare Lewis with a year ago, in a very difficult Monaco race [in which Nico Rosberg blocked off his opportunity to win pole], and today. He lost a race which he owned, which he controlled, and he came out of it with a maturity and as a leader in a spectacular way. That is a thing which makes me very happy, to see him coming out strong.
“He processes things much quicker now. I haven’t known him personally before my days at Mercedes but what I’ve seen is that in difficult moments he can process, it now takes just a couple of hours. And now maybe after such a bitter day it takes a couple of days. It’s all going to be disappeared emotionally by Montreal.” The Canadian Grand Prix is on Sunday week.
Mercedes’ decision gifted victory to Hamilton’s team-mate Rosberg, his third successive Monaco victory, as he halved Hamilton’s 20-point lead. It seems incredible that Hamilton, who has totally dominated the season, holds an advantage of only 10 points after six races.
The biggest critic of Mercedes’ was their own non-executive chairman, Niki Lauda, who said: “A top team should not make mistakes like this. I am really upset because it was not necessary. It was the wrong decision to bring him in. It was very obvious. There was no risk to keep him out.”
Lauda, a three-times world champion, added: “It was heartbreaking for Lewis, for me and everybody in the team. Lewis did say he was not happy with the tyres but then we overreacted by bringing him in. It was completely unnecessary, a huge mistake because this is Monaco where you cannot pass. I apologised to him and his team because we ended up destroying his race.”
Hamilton was brought in following the introduction of the safety car after Max Verstappen’s crash on the 64th lap. A mistake in Mercedes’ data led the team to miscalculate the gap between Hamilton and Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Anything can happen in a pit-stop, so common sense said Hamilton should have been left out on the track.
Wolff said: “The debrief will happen with the engineers first. The system showing us the clear possibility of a clear stop. And the system was wrong by a couple of seconds. Normally you go for those kind of stops. Lewis’s comments about the tyres added to the picture. We pitted. In hindsight, if you look at it from a common-sense standpoint, obviously there is a very different logic.”
Rosberg, who on Sunday was described by F1’s chief executive Bernie Ecclestone as being “not good for business because he does not ‘sell’ the sport like Hamilton”, knows he won by default. “I have mixed feelings,” the German said in a video on his Twitter feed. “I am very happy because a win is a win and I’ve learned to take the way it comes in sport. It was massively lucky, massively lucky. I’ve probably never been that lucky before.
“At the same time, though, I have a lot of empathy for Lewis and all his side of the garage. They did a great job this weekend and deserved the win but sport is really awful sometimes. It hit him this time but he’ll bounce back in Montreal I am sure.”
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