Turkish GP: Lewis Hamilton 'frustrated for not following my gut' but Mercedes defend pit-call

Sunday 10th October 2021 20:45 BST

Following a dramatic and controversial end to a fine comeback drive, Hamilton's two-point title lead over Max Verstappen turned into a six-point deficit as the seven-time world champion and Mercedes disagreed over strategy.

Hamilton was running third behind Verstappen with just eight laps to go and, having already ignored previous instructions to change his intermediate tyres, looked willing to commit to the full 58 laps without stopping. But Hamilton then agreed to stop, which dropped him back to fifth - where he would finish the wet Istanbul Park race.

"**** man why'd you give up that space?" blasted Hamilton to trusted engineer Pete Bonnington on team radio. "We shouldn't have come in. I told you."

Hamilton calmed down slightly after the race, but still felt his team made the wrong call.

"I feel like I should have stayed out," Hamilton told F1. "My gut feeling was to stay out, and I feel like that's what I should have done. So I'm frustrated in myself for not following my gut."

Asked by Sky F1 if his tyres could have lasted the whole race, Hamilton said: "[Esteban] Ocon's did, so they probably could.

"It felt good to be in third and I thought if I just hold onto this, this will be a great result [starting] from 11th. This is worse, but it could be worse."

Mercedes: 'Hamilton didn't see how much he was dropping off'

Mercedes boss Wolff, however, backed his team's strategy - insisting that while Hamilton had a comfortable buffer to Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez before his stop, he would have lost the positions if he had stayed out on track and maybe not even finished the race.

"We thought that we could maybe hang out there and finish third without stopping or, if a dry line appeared, maybe going to a soft tyre until the end," Wolff told Sky F1.

"So we balanced between pitting, taking it very conservative fighting against Leclerc and Perez on the track for P3, or taking a little bit of a gamble and either winning or finishing third.

"Then we saw Leclerc dropping off and Lewis was dropping off and it was clear we wouldn't make it to the end."

Wolff said Hamilton "didn't see how much he was dropping off" on the intermediate tyres compared to drivers who had stopped and that the Englishman should have come in when first told to do so on Lap 42 of 58.

"The correct call would probably have been taking it very conservative and pitting when everybody else pitted for the inters, coming out behind Perez and Leclerc and fighting with them for P3," he stated. "That was probably correct, but that is only with hindsight."

With Hamilton only six points behind Verstappen with six races to go, Wolff added: "DNFing and losing all the points, that's obviously catastrophic. We would have been caught up by Leclerc and Perez anyway if we had tried to stay out, so that wouldn't have worked."

How Mercedes and Hamilton pit-stop drama played out on team radio

Lap 42
Hamilton's race engineer Pete Bonnington: "Box box, box box."
LH: "Why?
PB: "New inter is the way to go."
LH: "I don't think it is, man."

Lap 43
LH: "It feels like we should stay out."

Lap 50
LH: "I mean I'm sliding around, but it's OK, so far."

Lap 51
PB: "Ok Lewis so we think we should box this lap, this will be the last chance before we lose the gap to Gasly."
LH: "Sure, ok."

Lap 52
PB: "So Gasly at three [seconds] behind, three behind."
LH: "**** man why'd you give up that space?
"It looks like we were going to lose position anyway."

Lap 54
LH: "What position am I in?"
PB: "Currently P5"
LH: "We shouldn't have come in. Massive graining. I told you."

Lap 55
PB: "Gasly at one second."
LH: "Leave it alone, man."

Hamilton's tyres were 'right on the limit'

Despite Hamilton's protests, F1 tyre supplier Pirelli also said Mercedes were right to pit the Englishman.

Asked by Sky F1 if the tyres would last until the end of the race, Pirelli boss Mario Isola said: "Looking at the tyres after the race, I would say no or at least it was really at the limit.

"The wear of the tyres, especially at the end of the race, they were running basically on the construction. It is a bit dangerous to push the boundaries like today. I fully understand that in a race condition they have to maximise the result."

He added: "It was really, really at the limit. I was suggesting our allocated engineers to worn the teams to change the tyres, not to got to the end because it was a risky move."

Hamilton also admitted his "worry" about the life of the tyre but also complained of struggling for grip after fitting fresh intermediates.

"The tyres are bald so you don't know how far they're going to go, and there's definitely the worry of the life of the tyre," said Hamilton. "But also I wasn't really that fast at the end there, I was struggling, had low grip and I'm not really sure why.

"I think probably in hindsight I should either have stayed out, or come in much earlier because when you come in with eight laps to go you don't have the time to go through the graining phase of that medium tyre on a drying track. Then I went through this whole sliding phase where I nearly lost more positions. A bit frustrating, but it is what it is."

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