Mercedes on why they couldn’t pit Hamilton earlier at the US GP

© Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

Many are saying Mercedes should have covered Max Verstappen’s early undercut attempt at the United States Grand Prix, however, Motorsport Strategy Director James Vowles says it wasn’t possible.

Max Verstappen was driving right behind Lewis Hamilton when he went for an early tyre change on lap 10 of the race. His team-mate Sergio Perez followed suit on lap 13.

However, Mercedes decided to try and go longer, so they called Lewis in on lap 14. By that time Max had already completed a successful undercut and got in front.

Lewis also went long on his second pit stop, in an effort to try and attack Max on fresher tyres in the closing stages of the race.

Unfortunately, Lewis ultimately wasn’t able to challenge Max for the win. Many have since suggested that Mercedes should have covered the undercut attempt, however, James Vowles explains why it wasn’t possible.

“First, we would have come out right on top of Ricciardo,” Vowles said in Mercedes race debrief.

“And we would have been compromised through the Esses until we got past past him probably on the run down to Turn 12 and that would have cost us time.

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“Maybe not enough to not hold on to that lead position but it would have cost us time.

“The second is, Red Bull would have then gone very long, as we did, but they did have two cars so they didn’t have the pressure to then stop and they were fast on that first stint on Medium and that could have made us into a very compromised position later in the race.

“So, from our perspective we knew the early stop was good and we had highlighted that just the lap Ricciardo pulled out of our window, which probably would have been lap eleven, would be the right point but what Red Bull did was take a gamble.

“They didn’t mind if they had to convert to a three stop, ultimately Verstappen would have finished second anyway. That would have put us behind Perez.

“So, ultimately, it’s a balance between making sure your first stint is long enough, that you are not dropping off the tyre curve on stint two and stint three, because a team that can go longer than you will ultimately beat you if they have car pace,” concluded the Briton.

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