Lewis Hamilton confused by race strategy in Abu Dhabi
World champion pitted 10 laps later than Rosberg; Hamilton insists he wasn't give choice on tyres; Mercedes say he was given choice
By William Esler
Last Updated: 02/12/15 3:34pm
Lewis Hamilton says he doesn't understand the strategy Mercedes put him on during the second stint of the Abu Dhabi GP.
Having stopped a lap later than team-mate and race-leader Nico Rosberg at the first pit-stop, the world champion stayed out 10 laps longer than the German before making his second stop.
Prior to the second stops Hamilton had closed the gap to Rosberg to 1.3 seconds, but, having finally made his final tyre change, he re-emerged from the pits with the gap having grown to 12.5 seconds.
"You have to rely on the engineers to give you the optimum strategy at that point," Hamilton told Sky Sports F1.
"Honestly I don't really understand it, I came out 11 seconds behind and had a mountain to climb and then the tyres went off."
Pitting two laps earlier than Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel was able to make the quicker supersoft tyres last to the end of the race.
Asked if he had been given the choice of the softer tyres Hamilton responded: "I let the team make the call as I didn't know what was the right one."
However, Hamilton's comments contradicted those of Mercedes boss Toto Wolff who told Sky Sports F1: "We gave him all the options this race and the tyre choice."
Wolff later added: "It was an off-set strategy and it was worth consideration. Go a bit longer, see how that pans out and then if you could have made that tyre last he could have gone on the option [tyre] and that would have been a real go to win the race.
"But the tyre wouldn't [last] and so it went into the third-best option."
Hamilton voiced his frustrations at the Mexican and Brazilian GPs that he wasn't allowed to run a different strategy to Rosberg in an attempt to get ahead. The only option that was given to Hamilton in Brazil was to extend his stint to have fresher tyres at the end, but with Vettel in close proximity that couldn't be risked.
That appeared to be what Mercedes did at the Yas Marina Circuit and the team told Sky F1's Ted Kravitz after the race that they did give Hamilton a choice of tyre but he didn't respond.
"Mercedes wanted a showdown and they gave Lewis Hamilton all the tools that he needed to create a showdown in the last stint," reported Kravitz.
"They extended his stint in the middle and even though he lost time, it meant he would have fresher tyres whatever tyres he chose for the final stint. They did give him the option of going to the supersoft tyre at the end. But the Mercedes engineers did say, 'Lewis you have the option, you make the call on supersofts or softs'.
"The fact is Hamilton did not respond and they put him onto the soft tyres that were slower, but would get him to the end without any dramas at all."
Asked by Sky Sports' Rachel Brookes about him wanting to stay out in the and not make a second stop, Hamilton appeared confused before replying: "The team asked me to stop and I stopped."
However, this contradicted a radio conversation he had with his engineer Pete Bonnington during the race that was broadcast to the world.
"If I back off now and look after these tyres to the end, how much time would I need to slow?" Hamilton asked the team.
He was told it wouldn't work, however the world champion then demanded that the team do the maths.
In the end Hamilton was unable to close the gap to Rosberg and had to settle for second as his team-mate celebrated victory for the third successive race.
"The gap was way too big, we left it too big, particularly on the same tyres there is no way you are going to be able to catch that gap up," said Hamilton.
"It is a shame because I was quicker in the middle stint so to have that pace and then come out 11 seconds behind is not a good feeling."
Don't miss the F1 Midweek Report for analysis of the Abu Dhabi GP and all the latest F1 news. Former BAR boss David Richards and car designer Gary Anderson join Natalie Pinkham on Sky Sports F1 at 8:30pm on Wednesday.