Mercedes explains why they didn’t ask Russell to move over for Hamilton

© Jiri Krenek for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

Mercedes’ Technical Director Mike Elliott explains why the team didn’t ask George Russell to move over for Lewis Hamilton at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, even though Lewis was on a quicker tyre.

After a Safety Car period at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton, who was running on medium tyres, started catching up to George Russell, who was running on hard tyres, and it appeared that a battle between team-mates for P4 was about to ensue.

Since Lewis was on a faster tyre than anyone around him, some observers thought it would be smart for Mercedes to ask George to move over, so that Lewis could try to challenge Fernando Alonso, who was running in P3 at the time.

This, however, did not happen and Mercedes’ technical boss Mike Elliott now explains why.

“First of all you’ve got to bear in mind that the Safety Car was pretty early so it was going to be a very long final stint,” Elliot said in Mercedes’ race debrief video.

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“Although Lewis came out on the faster tyre theoretically the medium, by the end of the stint the hard tyre was going to be a much quicker tyre.

“So, although Lewis could put pressure on George initially he wasn’t going to be able to do that at the end of the stint and so there probably wasn’t a clear [answer] which tyre is faster or slower if you look at the full stint length.

“We’ve always let our drivers race, that’s just the way we have operated as a team and we didn’t think we were going to be in a position where favouring one driver over the other would get us in a better position in the race. So, we just let them race.”

Hamilton was one of only two drivers to start the race on the hard tyre (Logan Sargeant was the other one), and in the early laps he seemed to struggle more than those around him.

Elliott explains why this strategy was still the right call.

“Given where Lewis was starting from, we thought there was a potential gain we could make by fitting the hard tyre.

“If we got the Safety Car at the right time, a Safety Car that had come out just after the others had pitted on their medium that would have really given an advantage to Lewis because he could have a much shorter effective pit stop time if he was able to stop under a Safety Car.

“And as you can see with Leclerc, he had to pit earlier and pitting earlier before that Safety Car meant that he had to take the full stop time in his race time whereas all of those that had stayed out on the track on the harder tyres had the advantage of being able to pit under the Safety Car.

“So, it wasn’t a huge amount in it, but we felt to us that that was a strategic gamble that was worth taking,” Elliott concluded.

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