“We knew that the tyre choice was the wrong one,” says Wolff. “In the end, the driver made the difference and won us the race.”
By Matt Morlidge and James Galloway
Last Updated: 26/05/19 6:06pm
Mercedes have admitted making a strategy error by putting Lewis Hamilton on the wrong tyres at the Monaco GP, but praised their driver for masterfully overcoming that mistake to win F1’s showpiece race.
Hamilton was fitted with medium tyres compared to his rivals’ hards for his only stop, and then had to last 67 laps on the wearing compound while dealing with the increased threat of Max Verstappen.
“We knew that the tyre choice was the wrong one and in hindsight we would have taken the hard,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told Sky F1. “We rarely make mistakes like this.
“In the end, the driver made the difference and won us the race.”
The Mercedes boss later told reporters: “He saved his. His driving saved us.”
While Hamilton coped on the medium tyre, he certainly wasn’t calm on team radio. The championship leader frequently questioned his Mercedes team, even claiming: “We’re going to lose this race.”
But Wolff accepted those messages, adding: “I think you just need to accept that the driver somehow needs to have a pressure release path and by talking to us, even just vomiting the anger out, that’s completely OK.”
Hamilton dedicated his momentous victory to the late Niki Lauda, a great friend of his and Wolff’s.
“It means a lot,” said Wolff about the Monaco win, Mercedes’ first since 2016. “It couldn’t have been a more dramatic race after the incidents of last week.
“It was a world champions’ drive for a world champion who isn’t among us anymore.”
How good was Hamilton’s drive?
Although track position is always considered king around F1’s tightest circuit, mechanical grip from the tyres is also paramount and Wolff explained on Sunday evening how difficult the challenge became for Hamilton as the race – and his tyres – wore on.
“What we had calculated is that if were to change on lap 15-16, the medium would make it to the end with the right management,” Wolff explained. “Being in the lead that was a pretty straight strategy.
“It didn’t even seem like a huge stretch and then we realised 20 laps into the race that on the left-front some graining appeared and he started complaining about the understeer that resulted from the graining. It was clear that it would make it very, very difficult to get to the end.
“So we had some discussions about the tyre lasting another 40 laps, and I was reminded it was actually 20 laps on a normal circuit. We calmed down a bit but everyone knew it was going to be a huge stretch and I believe that probably 20 laps from the end he had zero per cent rubber left on the tyre, with massive understeer on the slow speed. You could see around Lowes (hairpin) the car wouldn’t turn in.”
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