Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes missed out on a podium in the Singapore Grand Prix because it did not take enough of a risk with its strategy.
Charles Leclerc started from pole position with Hamilton second, and the Ferrari driver controlled the pace in the opening stint before Sebastian Vettel made the first pit stop and jumped both of the two cars ahead of him to lead. Once Leclerc pit, Hamilton stayed out for a number of laps in an attempt to gain time in clear air but the undercut was more powerful and he dropped behind Max Verstappen to finish fourth.
“I was asking to do the undercut,” Hamilton said. “I wanted to do one this morning but it was risky because you can come out in traffic and it might not work, but I was like, ‘Just at least take the risk.’
“But ultimately I didn’t know what the team knew in terms of where everyone was positioned. We just missed it by one lap, basically. They said, ‘Box this lap, do the opposite to Leclerc’ and Vettel had already stopped. Of course hindsight’s always a great thing so we would have stopped the same lap as Vettel.
“My tires were quite good after that and they said they were all in my window so I realized already while I was doing the following laps that I was going to be coming out in fourth. So then I was like, ‘I’ll try and keep these tires going as much as I can.’
“The thing is, I pushed very hard to try and overcut, so I took life out of my tires for two laps. I treated them like I was only going to do two laps, and then they said we’re going to extend. So I think that was their decision to extend but by the time they told me to extend my tires starting going off a cliff, because I’d just killed them in two laps.
“So we were all just a bit unlucky or unfortunate with the decision-making process. But we’ll pull together. The key is we never point the finger at anyone — it’s a team, this is a collective effort.”
With Vettel’s victory — leading home a Ferrari one-two — giving the Scuderia its third win in a row, Hamilton says the performance in Singapore was surprising but can be negated if Mercedes delivers at a high level.
“I tend to think I’m a realist so I see the situation we’re in and they’ve just come up with some sort of upgrade that’s perhaps put their car in (the window). Maybe they already had a good car all year, it just wasn’t working in the right window. Maybe? Who knows?
“Maybe they did but it’s unlikely that they brought a massive, massive upgrade that brought them 20 or 30 points (of downforce) or something, which is the performance level you’d have expected they would have taken here. But clearly their car works really well everywhere now, so it’s going to be very hard to beat them, particularly as they are so quick on the straights. We can’t compete with them on the straights at the moment.
“But we have won before with not the best car; it’s just really how we deliver over the weekend and at the moment they are delivering better on both ends. If we were better in the operations area then I think we can just pip them. Today we did enough in the race — in the first stint — to have come out in the lead. But the whole process didn’t work as well as it should do. So we just have to work hard and move forwards.”