Toto Wolff admits Mercedes was not convinced by Lewis Hamilton’s strategy in the Mexican Grand Prix, but took a risk in order to try and beat Ferrari.
Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel started from the front row in Mexico and duly held those positions at the start of the race. Hamilton had dropped to fifth after a battle with Max Verstappen, and once running fourth, made an early first pit stop to switch to hard tires before Mercedes then made him run to the end of the race, a gamble Wolff says was based on Daniel Ricciardo’s performance.
“No, we were not convinced,” Wolff said. “So there were two main factors. One is that we knew that we had to take a risk when you’re starting third and sixth. It’s easier to come up with some bold strategies, provided you have a good car, which we had, and fantastic drivers. We knew we need to do something different.
“And then we saw Ricciardo going long on the hard tire. I think he had done 30-odd laps, and was posting green lap times. And then we had quite some discussion, and at the end, what James (Vowles) and his strategy partner opted for, to go long for 47 laps, worked out.
“I have complete faith in (Hamilton), but we knew it was going to be stretched, and even the best driver needs to rely on the material. Forty-seven laps sounded like it was almost impossible, but then when you look at the data of the first stint, and Ricciardo and Max going strong, it kind of made sense. Still, visualizing 47 laps sounded like an awful lot of laps.”
Hamilton avoided contact with both Vettel and Verstappen on the opening lap – the latter seeing both run off at Turn 2 after the championship leader nearly spun – and Wolff said his driver’s ability to emerge from close racing situations sets him apart from many of his rivals.
“I think this is clearly something that is a combination of talent and learning and experience, that his racing is really great,” he said.
“On a few occasions, he took himself out of what could have been a race-ending situation, with Sebastian where he avoided contact miraculously, the contact here with Seb on the straight, and then just a few seconds later being side-by-side with Max through Turn 2 and 3. He seems to have this great ability to put the car in the right place.”