Toto Wolff insists Mercedes does not need to make changes to its strategic approach following an error that cost Lewis Hamilton the lead during the Austrian Grand Prix.
With Hamilton looking comfortable ahead of Valtteri Bottas, his teammate stopped at Turn 4 and caused a Virtual Safety Car to be deployed. Mercedes failed to pit Hamilton while Red Bull and Ferrari pit both drivers at the same time, essentially gaining a pit stop that saw the defending champion drop to fourth on the road when he made his stop, before later retiring.
While chief strategist James Vowles took to team radio to apologize to Hamilton for the error, Wolff says nothing needs to change despite also missing out on race victory in Australia due to a strategy software issue.
“No, we don’t need to make changes,” Wolff said. “The most important thing is to understand why an error happens and go back into the situation and analyze. I don’t think we’d make an error twice. The situation is very difficult this year — we are fighting, six cars, and that is just a tough situation.”
Explaining how Mercedes came to make the mistake on Sunday, Wolff says the ability for Red Bull and Ferrari to split strategies left his team debating on what to do.
“At that stage with the VSC, pitting is probably 80 percent the thing you need to do. With one car out there against two others, the thinking process was what would happen if the others split their cars? If we pit Lewis, would we come out behind Kimi Raikkonen or behind Max Verstappen and what would that mean for the race? I wouldn’t say it distracted us, but that thinking loop, we spent too much time on that.”
Wolff says the unusual move of having Vowles publicly take responsibility was designed to help refocus Hamilton as the Briton was left frustrated by the error.
“For Lewis he was leading the race comfortably, and then coming out in P4, it was a moment where he was really suffering. We thought it wasn’t all over, and we wanted to recover the maximum points that we could.
“At that stage we were all in pain at the mistake we made and James coming onto the radio is the mindset that we had to say that we have done a mistake in order to close the matter. And also to give Lewis the piece of mind that there is complete acknowledgement within the team that it has gone wrong and it is our mistake — in order to make him park the thought.
“It was about extracting what was left in the performance in him. Helping him out of the mind-loop of ‘how can this of possibly have happened?’ By admitting the mistake it is easier to get out of that spiral.
“James is one of the best ever and it needs guts to comes out and then in order to save the best possible result and go out there in front of millions of people and say, ‘That was my mistake, now you can still do this with the car you have.’”