After having managed to sign its first pole and victory in Brazil, Mercedes F1 had nothing to lose by trying everything at the last Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi to try to dislodge Ferrari from 2nd place in the constructors’ championship.
With the Scuderia 19 points clear, however, it was a tough task, which is why Mercedes F1 strategy director James Vowles says it’s an aggressive strategy to pass Lewis Hamilton at a pit stop which was the only poker move possible in the race.
« Our target in Abu Dhabi was to do everything we could to finish second in the constructors’ championship, and to do that you had to finish ahead of Ferrari. That’s easier said than done when you qualify behind them. and that, honestly, in the race, the pace of our car was not there. »
« But we saw with Lewis that his tire degradation was actually very good in the second stint of the race when we switched to hard tyres. Obviously the first stint on medium was not. »
“Lewis suffered from graining in his first stint so we moved the pit forward for this second stint.
« It wasn’t the same for all the cars, there were a few cars with higher degradation and in Lewis’ case the one stop meant he would gain track position over Sainz and George (Russell ). »
« Our only opportunity was to make a single stop and hope for a problem ahead for Charles (Leclerc). Out of two stops Lewis would have finished ahead of George but behind Sainz. With similar tyres, similarly worn and with similar pace, nothing couldn’t really have changed otherwise. »
Despite only stopping Hamilton once, Mercedes F1 held Russell on two stops « because you can win in the event of a safety car. »
« All that part of the race where Lewis was in the lead, if a safety car had come out, we would have taken advantage of that because we would have stopped and we would have had the track position gain with it. Ultimately splitting your cars creates opportunities. »
« Unfortunately, in this particular circumstance, nothing happened. But everything had to be tried. »