Mercedes has explained how it came to pass that Lewis Hamilton was the only car on the grid for the restart of the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Hamilton was the leader during a red flag period to clear debris and various retired cars from two Turn 1 incidents in Budapest, and with Valtteri Bottas having ruined the races of both Red Bull drivers and Lando Norris, the world champion appeared set for a comfortable victory. But when the rest of the field pulled into the pits to switch from intermediates to slicks, Hamilton was left to restart the race alone.
Mercedes’ trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said the error from the team came before the decision to not pit, and was actually rooted in the tires that Hamilton first went out on.
“When we actually left the pit lane we were talking about whether to go on slicks, because we could see that it was drying out and that’s really the decision that we got wrong,” Shovlin said. “The mindset though, given the situation with the race start and with our competitors, was one of not making a mistake by slipping off or getting tangled in an accident.
“So we decided to be cautious and go on the inter. It was very surprising to see the entire field on the inter, and then it was even more surprising to see the entire field peel off behind us.”
Shovlin said at that stage it had been deemed similarly risky to come into the pits given Mercedes’ positioning in the pit lane, even though he then had to fight back from last place to finish second.
“When you are first garage, you’ve got the disadvantage that as you come in and do your stop, you’ve got a train of cars following you in, who all have pit boxes further down the pit lane. Then you’ve got to try and find a gap where you can launch into. You saw that there were a few incidents with people crashing in the pit lane.
“Looking at it, and knowing there’s no way Lewis could build a five-second gap on the formation lap because everyone is trying to bunch up and get in, we think we would have been best-case P6 on the road, worse-case P10. But it would have still been messy and risky.
“That’s why we go back to the real mistake that we made, which was we should have rolled out of the pit lane on dry tires, as should have everyone. Because then you don’t need to make the stop.
“It was unfortunate, and we had an easy opportunity to win the race which we failed to take. But, we were all in agreement that we all got it wrong together. No-one is being blamed for it, and it’s one of those things which you learn from and in this industry you try not to make the same mistake twice.”