Mercedes admit 'wrong decision' in Mexico City GP strategy but insist they were 'aggressive' vs Red Bull
Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles explains the team's strategy calls at the Mexico City GP, after Lewis Hamilton and George Russell both started on the same tyre and had similar in-race calls; Max Verstappen ultimately dominated race
Last Updated: 03/11/22 8:16pm
Mercedes have admitted to a "wrong decision" in their Mexico City GP strategy but insist they were "aggressive" against Red Bull despite Max Verstappen's ultimately dominant victory last Sunday.
The Silver Arrows looked well set to challenge Red Bull for their first victory of the season in Mexico - with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton starting second and third on the grid behind Verstappen - but the world champion went on to ease to a 15-second victory ahead of Hamilton.
Mercedes appeared to have similar pace to Red Bull but their tyre strategy was questioned by fans and rivals, with the team opting for mediums and then hards for both drivers while Red Bull and others flourished on softs.
- Hamilton questions Merc strategy | Russell: I could have ran him off!
- Brundle's Mexico verdict as Max reaches new level of F1 dominance
- Norris: I spoke to Red Bull and other teams before signing McLaren deal
Explaining their calls in the team's race debrief, chief strategist James Vowles defended pitting Hamilton early onto the hard compound, stressing that Sergio Perez, who stopped earlier, would have undercut him otherwise.
"We decided that track position was more important at that stage and furthermore we had some data from [Nicholas] Latifi that had already stopped and hard wasn't terrible.
"So we opted to stop, put Lewis on the hard tyre and go towards the end of the race under the hope that potentially Verstappen was going to drop off that medium curve much as we did see degradation at the end of our stint."
Vowles, however, did admit to an error with Russell's strategy. Russell had been pleading with his team to leave him out longer rather than put him onto the hards, which he and Hamilton then criticised when racing.
"With George there was a lot more opportunity to really keep going long and fit the soft tyre and that was the plan," explained Vowles. "It was what we had discussed before the race and it is what we discussed live during the race with George as well.
"We carried on the stint and what we could see is that actually relative to Perez and Lewis, George was starting to lose a lot of time, that medium tyre really just struggling at the end of its degradation stint, you would have heard George come on and really start to give indications about that as well.
"The question now was given we were struggling on the medium tyre after just 30 odd laps would the soft tyre really make the stint required.
"It was a hard choice but we decided on balance stopping and fitting the hard tyre would probably bring us a better result in the belief that if we are struggling on the medium tyre here Perez probably won't make it to the end of the race and they need to stop one more time.
"That in hindsight was a wrong decision and I think if you look back and you look at [Daniel] Ricciardo we should have just kept going. Yes, there was degradation and it was getting more and more but we wouldn't have to have gone much further before we could fit the soft tyre.
"What the result would have been I am not sure but I think it would have been a better race than what we did."
Vowles though took exception to one of the questions submitted to Mercedes by fans, calling on the team to be "more aggressive". That was relating to not splitting Russell and Hamilton's strategy, both during the race and at the start as both started on the medium tyres.
"So, first of all I pick up the term aggressive. By starting on the medium, which is a big difference relative to both Ferrari and Red Bull, that is sort of aggressive in many forms because you are doing something very different to them.
"We believed that Red Bull would be a faster race car, so doing exactly the same thing as they were doing probably won't lead to a race win but starting on the medium, if the soft degrades more than we were expecting it to or the medium degrades more than we expected to so a one stop is just simply not possible anymore.
"That now means the medium/hard one stop creates an opportunity that wouldn't have been there otherwise. As for why we didn't split them on the grid, we had two cars in a strong position and felt that actually we could weaken ourselves by splitting them as it was it probably would have been George on the soft and who knows whether he would have kept that position or not but had he dropped back having a car on soft behind one on medium creates complications.
"The next element of it is why didn't we split them later on which is a question I have covered off we should have, I think George should have been on the soft.
"What it would change? I am not sure at this stage, what I can say though is rewind the race what would we do differently? We wouldn't split them but we would have started both on soft.
"I don't think it would have made a dramatic difference to where Lewis was, he would have finished second but George definitely lost out at the start of the race and I think the extra grip may have helped him to hold on to the position there.
"So second or third may have been possible and we definitely would have been close to Verstappen on how we were racing."