Mercedes Explains Strategic Call From Monaco Grand Prix That Was Questioned By Hamilton

Thursday, 30 May 2024 at 18:00
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Andrew Shovlin (Merceds's trackside performance engineering director) explained the reasoning behind his team's strategic call, which Lewis Hamilton questioned during the race in Monaco.
The Monaco Grand Prix was one of the most static races in a very long time. The red flag triggered on the first lap allowed everyone to change their tires, fulfilling the mandatory tire compound change.
It wouldn't be the case at other tracks, but Circuit de Monaco makes it impossible to overtake, so it didn't make sense for drivers to make another pitstop during the race (it would only result in a loss of positions with nothing to gain).
During the whole race, we saw six pit stops. One of them was Lewis Hamilton on Mercedes, who was right behind Max Verstappen but had no one behind him for more than 20 seconds.
The problem was that when Hamilton came into the pits, Verstappen did as well (one lap later) and the seven-time World Champion didn't even manage to undercut the Dutchman.
Andrew Shovlin explained in the 2024 Monaco GP F1 Akkodis Race Debrief video that Mercedes didn't anticipate the Red Bull Racing driver would be able to go for a pit stop as well:

"We never thought we would be able to undercut Max, because the reality is if we stopped because there was no one behind us and we had clear track, they are not going to stop if they do not have the window to drop out ahead of us."

"What we thought we would have ended up with was Lewis then catching up to Max, who does not stop. Max is on a used set of tires; Lewis is on a new set of tires, and he can put Max under pressure."

What happened instead, though, was that the Dutchman had newer tires and could push Mercedes's second driver, George Russell, who was ahead of him. In a way, Mercedes put themselves in a worse situation by making this strategic call.
Hamilton then went on the team radio and asked his team why they didn't tell him the out-lap was "critical." The message that he actually received was "out-lap normal."

"The bit that did not go well was because we did not tell Lewis to go flat out on that out lap. Max actually had the gap to make the pit stop, so he was able to, because he was not going as fast as he could to start with, he could push up behind George."

"He gained time against himself because he was managing. He was able to do that. Stop and get out in front."

Ultimately, Russell showed he had more pace, and the triple World Champion didn't have enough pace to challenge him even with the new tires. Shovlin added:

"What we inadvertently ended up with was Max on a new set behind George, which was not ideal, but as you saw, it did not really look like George was at risk of losing that position. He had managed the tires well, and he had good rubber at the end."