Toto Wolff insisted Mercedes took the risky approach by leaving Lewis Hamilton out on old intermediate tires to try and get third place in the Turkish Grand Prix.
Hamilton was running third and wanted to go to the end without a pit stop in order to try and hold that position, but Mercedes brought him in with eight laps to go in a move the driver complained about after the stop. Graining on new intermediate tires left Hamilton having to defend fifth place from Pierre Gasly, but Wolff said even trying to make it to the end of the race was the gamble and Mercedes had to know when to call off the attempt.
“I think in the car it’s always very difficult to assess your position in the race,” Wolff said. “We could have either played it very conservative and pitted him when (Max) Verstappen and (Sergio) Perez pitted and then fight it out on track and probably come out behind Perez and fight for P4, P3 on track.
“The other thing was to try to go long and either transition to a dry tire or just not stop anymore. So, there were two possible options that sounded quite good because finishing fifth, where we were, obviously we would have done that because Gasly was far away.
“Then, unfortunately the pace just dropped off much quicker than we would have needed in order to stay third, or even fourth or even fifth. We almost lost the window against Gasly and then we decided, ‘OK that’s not going to happen and let’s pit and consolidate fifth’.
“So, I think in hindsight now we would have pitted 10 laps earlier and fought it out on track and probably finished third or fourth but there was much more to gain from the other, more dynamic, variant.”
Wolff admitted the changeable conditions opened up opportunities for Hamilton to make further progress than fifth place, but said the extra two positions were made less important by Valtteri Bottas’ performance.
“I think in a normal dry race this would have probably been the best case, finishing fifth. (In the wet) best-case, with every decision and the hindsight of the information we have at the end, probably third would have been the best we could have achieved.
“It’s a five-point swing, but I think we need to walk away from here and say that was damage limitation for this weekend, and thank God Valtteri won the race and scored an extra point for fastest lap.”