"You have to respect Lewis' seven titles and his gut feeling out on the track... but at the same he has to respect his team"; Martin Brundle's verdict on the Turkish GP pit-stop disagreement between Hamilton and Mercedes
Monday 11 October 2021 19:06, UK
Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle believes Lewis Hamilton "made a mistake" by overruling Mercedes at the Turkish GP in a strategy mishap that saw him lose key race positions, and championship points to Max Verstappen.
Hamilton was eager to make it to end of the race on the same intermediate tyres on which he started on Sunday and initially ignored Mercedes calls to pit, before eventually following the advice 10 laps after he was first asked.
Hamilton dropped from third to fifth but by that stage there were only eight laps remaining in the race, and he didn't make up the positions.
The seven-time world champion criticised his team during and after the race - but Brundle says he was at fault as other drivers, such as Verstappen who finished second and retook the title lead, benefitted from an earlier stop.
"I think yesterday was a mistake on Lewis' part," said Brundle on Sky Sports News.
"We have seen him overrule the team in the past and it's worked out very well - for example in Turkey last year when he ran right through to the end and it was a glorious victory.
"But yesterday, I think all Mercedes had to do was mimic to an extent what Red Bull were doing, try to minimise the pain of him taking a new engine and grid penalty to go with that.
"I think Lewis put his team off-balance and it was a bit of a no-mans stop in the end."
An angry Hamilton said after the race: "My gut feeling was to stay out, and I feel like that's what I should have done. So I'm frustrated in myself for not following my gut."
But Brundle stressed on Monday morning: "You have to respect Lewis' seven titles and his gut feeling out on the track.
"But at the same he has to respect that his team have got a copious amount of information, they're watching the entire race, all of the other cars and when they called him in, he kind of put them out of their stride."
Hamilton also accused Mercedes of being too conservative by not leaving him out until the end of the race, as Alpine's Esteban Ocon had managed. But both Pirelli and Mercedes said Hamilton risked a DNF in those circumstances.
"He had to stop, I'm pretty sure," said Brundle. "If we look at Esteban Ocon's tyres in the Alpine, it was down to the canvas.
"Common sense tells you it probably wouldn't have worked out but Lewis felt he wanted to do that."
Hamilton's two-point title lead over Verstappen has turned into a six-point deficit with six races to go.
"It's not the end of the world," said Brundle. "Obviously he was tantalisingly close to third place and he felt that would really have been a great day out.
"But this incredible season is turning on a fastest lap here or maybe a sprint race victory or a bit of luck or a bit of reliability. It's really so, so close.
"Red Bull will be concerned at the raw pace of the Mercedes over the weekend, Valtteri Bottas was outstanding in every respect and he will be in there helping Lewis as well for the world championship.
"We're in for an amazing finish to this season."
Hamilton posted an impassioned statement on his Instagram stories on Monday to deny that he was "furious" with his Mercedes team.
"I've seen some of the press this morning which has made a bit too much of the incident in yesterday's race of when to pit," said Hamilton. "It isn't true to say I'm furious with my team.
"As a team, we work hard to build the best strategy possible but as the race progresses you have to make split decisions [and] there are so many factors constantly changing.
"Yesterday we took the risk to stay out hoping it would dry, it didn't. I wanted to risk it and try to go to the end, but it was my call to stay out and it didn't work.
"In the end we did pit and it was the safest thing to do. We live and learn. We win and lose as a team."
Hamilton added: "Don't ever expect me to be all polite and calm on the radio when I'm racing.
"We are all very passionate and in the heat of the moment that passion can come out, as it does for all drivers.
"My heart and spirit are out there on the track, it's the fire in me that got me this far but any angst is quickly forgotten and we talked it through, already looking ahead to the next race.
"Today's another day to rise and as a team."