A sulking Lewis Hamilton would have risked ‘tumbling down the order’ and was heading for a disaster had he refused to pit late on at the Turkish Grand Prix, believes Formula One managing director Ross Brawn.
The seven-time world champion, who started 11th, was left incensed on team radio when a poorly-timed pit-stop pushed him out of the podium places and left him clinging on to fifth place in Istanbul.
‘F***, man, why did you give up that space?’ Hamilton asked over the team radio.
Lewis Hamilton was left frustrated by a poorly-timed pit stop late on at the Turkish Grand Prix
Ross Brawn, F1’s managing director, felt Hamilton was heading for a ‘disaster’ if he didn’t pit
Hamilton had wanted to stay out for the entire race on his original intermediate tyres on a damp track – a tactic only employed by Alpine’s Esteban Ocon. Hamilton said on Sunday: ‘If Ocon did it, then I could do it, for sure.’
But for Brawn, with the way the race was going and the conditions on track, had Hamilton stayed ‘in a bubble’ and not listened to his engineers he was heading towards a ‘disaster’ finish.
‘The driver is in a bubble,’ Brawn wrote in his column on the official F1 website.
‘They need to give you information, but what they can’t see is all the data being fed to the pit wall.
‘In Lewis’ case, if he didn’t box (pit) and the tyres had gone away or there had been a light rain shower, he would have tumbled down the order and that would have been a disaster.
‘Once again teams were faced with a very difficult strategic decision. In these scenarios, you’re trusting your judgment, experience and feel.
‘As we saw with Lewis, there was a fair bit of initial resistance from within the car about pitting.’
Brawn believes that Hamilton would have ‘tumbled down the order’ further without a stop
He added: ‘When these situations are not clear-cut and you get a push-back from the driver, it’s easy for a team to back off what they feel was the right decision.’
Brawn’s comments come as Mercedes revealed that pitting Hamilton when they eventually did was the correct call to maximise his points potential.
Although the team admitted they thought they could have bagged fourth place by staying out, they did not have the foresight to see the degradation of the tyre by staying out, evidenced by Ocon losing 18 seconds to his rivals over the last five laps.
Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin believes had Hamilton stayed out he could have been hanging on to eighth place ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
‘If they stabilised at the point that we brought him in, and they remained completely consistent there to the finish, we think he would have lost the place to Sergio [Perez], but he would have stayed ahead of Charles [Leclerc] who finished P4,’ Shovlin said during the latest episode of This Week with Will Buxton on Motorsport TV.
‘If we super-impose that [Ocon’s] degradation onto Lewis, then you could see that he’d actually be losing numerous places, almost dropping to the back of the points.
Mercedes believe Hamilton could have been fighting with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz (pictured) for eighth place had they not pitted the world champion in Turkey
‘On the basis of that degradation, he could even have been in a fight with Sainz at the very end.
Finishing fifth meant Hamilton’s one-point championship advantage evaporated and now Max Verstappen, who came second, leads by six points with six races of the season to go.
The idea of a pit stop was floated to Hamilton eight laps prior but he was uninterested, something Sky’s leading pundit Martin Brundle, who raced in 158 grands prix, felt was a ‘mistake’.
Brundle said: ‘It was a mistake on Lewis’s part (not to come in when the idea of pitting was originally put to him eight laps earlier).
‘All Mercedes had to do was mimic Red Bull. But Lewis put his team off-balance and it was a bit of a no-man’s-land stop in the end, but they had to stop.
‘You have to respect Lewis’s seven world titles and his gut feeling out on track, but he has to respect the team have got copious amounts of information and are watching the race. And when they called him in (and he refused), he kind of put them out of their stride.’
Hamilton, who started 11th, rose up to third but was left clinging to fifth place after the pit stop
Hamilton put up a statement on Monday insisting he was not furious with Mercedes
Hamilton, after sleeping on his radio rage for a night, looked to dilute any stories that he was left furious at his team.
‘I have seen some of the press this morning, which has made a bit too much of the incident in the race,’ he wrote on Instagram.
‘It isn’t true to say I am furious with the team. We work hard to build the best strategy possible but as the race progresses you have to make split-second decisions. There are so many factors constantly changing.
‘Yesterday we took the risk to stay out hoping it would dry; it didn’t. I wanted to risk going to the end, but it was my call to stay out (eight laps earlier, when the idea was raised by the team) and it didn’t work. In the end, we did pit and it was the safest thing to do.’
Of his well-vented frustration, Hamilton said: ‘Don’t ever expect me to be all polite and calm on the radio when I’m racing. We are all passionate and in the heat of the moment that passion can come out, as it does for all drivers.
‘My heart and spirit are out there on the track. It’s the fire in me that has got me this far, but any angst is quickly forgotten.’