Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Sepang International Circuit, 2015

Hamilton unsure if early pit stop was the right move

2015 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Sepang International Circuit, 2015Lewis Hamilton is unsure whether his early pit stop during the Malaysian Grand Prix cost him victory to Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton putted during a Safety Car which allowed Vettel through into the lead. Hamilton told reporters this followed a plan Mercedes had agreed on before the race.

“I really can’t say whether it was a mistake or not,” Hamilton said. “Obviously the others stayed out, I didn’t expect so many people to stay out.”

“But before the race the plan was to pit if the Safety Car came out like that. So when I go back I guess I’ll sit with the engineers and they’ll tell me if we could have done better or not.”

“Second place can never really be that disappointing,” he said when asked about his lost chance of victory. “I don’t feel too disappointed to be honest.”

“I did everything I could. I think as a team there’s areas we can improve on. But you can’t win them all and it’s nice for the sport to see another winner.”

Hamilton also suggested the race showed Mercedes will not have as easy a season as some expected they would following their dominant victory in Australia.

“I think also some people are going to have to eat their words after the last race,” he said. “I’m looking forward to a battle now.”

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Keith Collantine
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37 comments on “Hamilton unsure if early pit stop was the right move”

  1. At the time, it was the right call. They had no way to know Vettel would have such a long stint at good pace. If you consider how much Hamilton seemed to be struggling with degradation, not pitting would have cost them time later anyways.

    1. Yeah, it’s impossible to say “staying out under the safety car and doing a 2 stop was the best strategy”. The best strategy will vary for each car – what might work for one car could result in tyres going off the cliff for another car.

      I think the Mercedes was too hard on its tyres to attempt a 2-stop. The Ferrari’s great tyre conservation (a common feature on James Allison cars) likely gave them a lot more flexibility with the strategy, and I think Mercedes would have had to 3 stop anyway. They lost about 10 seconds coming through traffic, but if they hadn’t pitted under the safety car they would have effectively lost 20+ seconds with their extra pitstop over Vettel anyway as the safety car wouldn’t have given them a “free” pitstop.

      That said, I still have the niggling feeling that their strategy wasn’t optimal, I just had the impression that Mercedes were panicking at certain stages of the race as they seem to have an answer to the consistent, low drop-off pace Vettel was putting in. Toto Wolff suggested that he thought that, even without the Mercs getting caught in traffic, Vettel/Ferrari’s race pace was slightly faster anyway and he probably would have won regardless.

      Remember that Kimi started 11th, had a bad start, got a puncture on the final corner and had to trundle around the entire lap to get back to the pits (which also gave him floor damage). He caught up to the back of the pack thanks to the safety car, but even so, after that he went from last to 4th (close to 20 seconds ahead of the Williams) despite having floor damage that was potentially costing him around 0.5s a lap. The Ferrari had some amazing pace today.

      1. *they didn’t seem to have an answer to

      2. I disagree… By the book would at least have been to split the strategy and have the trailing car stay out. Not sure if ROS could have prevailed, but Mercs lost too much time behind Hulk and train. I don’t think the option would have been better for HAM in the final stint as it might not have lasted as long as the prime did, but he may have gotten a bit narrower gap until they dropped off. Tyre drug was the ultimate factor, but the early SC pit for both cars did cost Merc, I feel.

        1. Tyre DEG – I hate iOS autocorrect!

  2. Hamilton putted during a Safety Car

    Well there’s your problem Hamilton. Stop playing golf and focus on F1!

    1. lol:)) he 3 putted, that’s why!!

    2. Seems he’s been playing a lot of golf this weekend…

      Hamilton on the fairway

  3. The early pitstop is exactly what cost them, it was a big tactical error which cost them the win.

    1. I disagree. I think using the soft tyres in qualifying is what really hurt them. Rosbergs last stint was much better than Hamiltons, so if Hamilton had some soft tyres available it would have been much closer. I’m not sure he would have caught Vettel anyway, but not having the option was the main problem. The early pit stop compressed the issue as it let Vettel build the gap and meant that Mercedes did a much bigger proportion of the race on the slower tyre.

      1. However, HAM did stop much sooner than ROS the final time, so not sure options (even fresh ones) would have seen him home.

    2. No, it wasn’t. Vettel was maintaining the gap, Hamilton would have lost more time if not for the SC, and he was never going to do a 2 stop.

      1. You wouldnt know that, if hamilton didnt run behind cars in dirty air, he would be maintaining the gap as well! How do you know Hamilton would let him pass that easily? Ham dropped the gap quite a lot on much slower tyres! what makes you think he wouldnt keep the gap long enough in clean air?

  4. A lot of it came down to the amount of traffic that Hamilton had to contend with after that pitstop. He lost about 10 seconds to Vettel. On another day, it could’ve been the right call.

    1. Very true but also very predictable and mercedes should have considered this before making the stop. I think this poor tactical decision was made because mercedes thought they were much quicker than ferrari when in fact they were only a tenth or two quicker.

      1. Which some may say amounts to arrogance on Mercedes part.

      2. @jsmith944 There was nothing “very predictable” about it, at all.

      3. Lewis said they didn’t expect that so many cars would stay out. It’s one think to pass 4 cars, and another to pass 1 or 2. Especially with a slower tyre.

        1. Hulk was very much out of position following the SC and cost a lot of time for the Mercs. Not sure why they pitted both cars, should have left at least one out (ROS) to cover the eventualities and put pressure on VET. Nice drive by RAI considering his early race!

  5. Using the soft tyres in qualifying is what really hurt them. If they had had an extra set, they could have used that one when they pitted under the safety car.

    Being in the midfield with the prime tires gave Vettel the oppportnuty to pull off a gap. With the options on, I’m sure Hamilton would ‘ve quickly dispatched the drivers in front of him.

  6. The early pitstop was one of many errors that cost them. The first was tyre allocation saving hards over soft in qualifying. Then the early pitstop dropped them right in traffic. Finally trying to go two stop then finally switching back to three stop.

    No one of those factors cost them the race.

    1. Yeah, they just completely lost their way.

      It was hilarious hearing them talk over the radio telling Rosberg how he would be fighting Vettel for the win at the end of the race.

      It’s like they were watching a completely different race. Like they hadn’t seen that the Ferrari was a lot quicker than the Mercedes on hard tyres. Yet they had plenty of stints on hard tyres to do still.

      Perhaps they were still working with lap times they got from practice and that the track changed so much due to the rain, that these predictions didn’t hold during the race.

      Of course Hamilton lost the whole of P1 and much of P2 so he couldn’t have helped collecting much data and he wasn’t able to set up his car properly either. That’s already where their troubles started.

    2. As Toto Wolff mentioned after the race, they got a deserved wake up call after having missed/made mistakes on many smaller points that cost them the race.

  7. The moment Vettel stayed out when the Mercedes stopped during the safety car period, I knew they had made the wrong move.They had the pace to open up a gap to the other teams bar Ferrari.
    And it would have given us a much closer race at the end.

  8. What happened with that claim that Mercedes had a lot more up their sleeve? I’m sure they’d switched to full power settings once they saw Ferrari running at the front.

    1. They probably have more up their sleeve, but the tyres couldn’t handle it.

    2. I was also suprized they couldn’t pull anything out their sleeves.

    3. I noticed that Hamilton had very high fuel use, which is very unusual for him. Suggests that the wick was up. The sleeve was empty.

      1. Remember tyres played a huge part today

  9. Put it this way: if Mercedes has felt more threatened by Ferrari, as in racing on equal terms, they would have been carefully about the tyre use in qualifying and probably wouldn’t have pitted from P1 and P2 (!) after just 4 laps. It’s especially strange that they decided to do that before the race – with the expectation (as Hamilton revealed) that not many would. It makes little sense. They needed to see how the tyre wear was during the race, surely. And a golder rule is not giving up track position for free. And pitting early in the race means more traffic to get through. None of it makes sense!

    And the end? Telling Lewis he’d pass Vettel with 5 laps to spare?? It’s like they weren’t actually watching the race. How is he supposed to trust the information they give in future races when it’s that wildly out?

    1. The pit wall was shell shocked. Lowe keying the mike while hand wringing was telling. I too was wondering what race they were watching.

      1. Well at least they were given a sharp wake-up kick all round at a non-critical part of the season. Hamilton was fairly blameless and drove well, some good passing, but I think he should have questioned the strategy more given pre-race they’d agreed on pitting early if there was a SC. He also needs a debrief on how their end of race projections weren’t being updated by the evidence from the race. Mercedes seem to have last season’s Ferrari loaded in their race simulator still.

    2. Yeah, considering how Raikkonen did a long run on Friday that was faster than both Mercedes’ long runs on average (with a lot less tyre deg/drop off), I would’ve thought that Mercedes would expect this kind of pace from Ferrari in the race. Almost seems like Mercedes had gotten a bit complacent and just expected to be faster than everyone else.

      In a strange way, this result actually benefits Mercedes though, as now there will be less talk of how “the other teams will never be able to catch up to Mercedes under the current regulations”, “we need equalisation to improve the show or F1 will lose all its viewers”, etc.

  10. Great race following the disappointing Aus round.

    “I think also some people are going to have to eat their words after the last race” Yep it’s now clear that Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams and Toro Rosso all need ‘equalising’.

  11. Vettel is turning a lot of conventional strategic thinking on its head this season. First he took a position from Felipe Massa in Australia by using the “overcut”, then he won in Malaysia by not pitting under the safety car and pulling out a gap at the front. Everyone knows Vettel is at his best with clear track in front of him, and now he’s got a car that allows him to do that, it’s up to the other teams (especially Mercedes) to adjust their tactics.

    As soon as he stayed out today, I thought to myself that he was going to win the race. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he had personally contributed to the decision. He’s one of the smartest drivers on the grid.

    1. Indeed, I seem to remember reading a prediction that specifically says Vettel’s overcut strategy from Australia wouldn’t work here because of high tyre degradation…

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