Technical director James Allison says Mercedes “did something plain dumb” with Lewis Hamilton when chasing victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Hamilton had been fighting Max Verstappen for the majority of the race at Interlagos but despite getting ahead twice, Verstappen was able to regain the lead on both occasions. After the two Ferraris collided, there was a late safety car period where Mercedes pitted Hamilton and he dropped from second to fourth, eventually colliding with Alex Albon on the penultimate lap and picking up a penalty that cost him a podium finish.
“Valtteri (Bottas) caused a safety car that we were surprised by — because he parked quite neatly — but we just called a box opposite because that was a chance to be in the lead,” Allison (pictured, top) said. “We would of course have a good strong car behind us on fresh rubber but it wasn’t in any way a foregone conclusion that Max would be able to pass. The restart didn’t go so well, Max did pass, and then it looked liked a journey home to the flag in those positions from there.
“Then there was the Ferrari incident and that was the point at which — having not had the shiniest of races up to that point — we just did something plain dumb. Which was, we thought we were exchanging a place for fresh rubber with enough laps left to get that place back promptly and then have a go for the lead.
“Firstly, that was just factually incorrect because we were exchanging two places — we hadn’t factored (Pierre) Gasly — and secondly, with the amount of debris on the track there was just a lot more laps taken up by the safety car than we’d anticipated. That was your rookie error of our not-quite-quick-enough car on the day and trying to stretch too far for a victory that wasn’t on, and we just made a mistake.”
While Hamilton was given the option of staying out or pitting and chose to switch tires, Allison says the blame falls on Mercedes because it didn’t give its driver the correct picture.
“This was entirely our fault because we saw what we thought was a fleeting opportunity. It was not at all clear to us that it was the right thing to do, but there was a possibility.
“We thought, ‘Let’s give Lewis a chance to give his view,’ which we shouldn’t have done because honestly we didn’t give him the right information — we said one place and it was two — and secondly, we should have just made the call ourselves. So he ummed and ahhed for a second or two before diving in the pits because he likes racing, but that was our mistake.”