Although Lewis Hamilton qualified ahead of George Russell for the Miami Grand Prix, thanks to a perfectly timed Safety Car, the young Briton managed to finish the race ahead of his more experienced team-mate.
In Mercedes’ race debrief, Mike Elliott explains why Mercedes did not pit Lewis for fresh tyres when the Safety Car came out.
“The [Virtual Safety Car] came first, and we pitted George, exactly the right thing to do,” Elliott said.
“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.
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“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. The Safety Car came at the completely wrong time for Lewis.
“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.”
Elliott then explained why Mercedes at one point asked Lewis if he wanted to come in for a last minute pit stop under the Safety Car, which prompted the Briton to tell the team it was their decision to make.
“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.
“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,” concluded the team’s Technical Director.