Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin says the team was wrong to leave Lewis Hamilton on intermediate tyres on race restart, but they did it for the right reasons.
After the big collision on race start, the Hungarian Grand Prix was red flagged. During the formation lap ahead of the standing race restart, all drivers entered the pits to switch from intermediate to dry tyres.
This left Lewis Hamilton as the lone driver on the starting grid. However, he had to enter the pits at the end of his first lap, which dropped him down to the back of the grid.
He ultimately did manage to climb his way back to P3, but the original decision definitely cost him. Andrew Shovlin explains Mercedes’ thinking at the time.
“When we left the pit lane, at that point we were talking about do we go on slicks because we could see it was drying out and that is really the decision that we got wrong,” said the Briton.
“The mindset though, given the situation in the race there and with our competitors, was one of not making a mistake by slipping off or getting tangled in an accident so we decided to be cautious and go on the inter.
“It was very surprising to see the entire field on the inter and then it was more surprising to see the entire field peel off behind us.
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“But when you are the first garage, you have got the disadvantage that as you come in and do your stop, you have then got a train of cars following you in who have all got pit boxes further down the pit lane and then you have got to try and find a gap you can launch into.
“You saw there were a few incidents where people were crashing in the pit lane.”
Shovlin admits that in retrospect Lewis would have been better off if he entered the pits with the rest of the field.
“Looking at it and knowing there was no way Lewis could ever build a five-second gap on a formation lap because everyone is trying to bunch up and get in, we think we would have been in best case P6 on the road, worst case P10.
“But it would have still been messy or risky which is why we go back to the real mistake was we should have rolled out of the pit lane on drys, as should everyone because then you don’t need to make the stop.”
Shovlin explains Mercedes is taking this incident as a learning experience.
“It was unfortunate and we had an easy opportunity to win the race which we failed to take. But we were all in agreement that we got it wrong together so no one is being blamed for it.
“But it is one of those lessons you learn from and in this industry, you try not to make the same mistake twice,” concluded Mercedes’ chief engineer.