Mercedes needs to go to into a deeper analysis of why Lewis Hamilton lost the lead to Max Verstappen at the opening round of stops during yesterday’s French Grand Prix, according to their trackside engineering engineer Andrew Shovlin.
The Dutchman’s mistake at turn 2 on the opening lap gifted the lead to his current rival and the seven-time World Champion.
Hamilton eased away as the first stint went on and built a 3s lead as the pitstops began. Shovlin said their modelling system told them that he would retain the lead by pitting a lap after Verstappen, but that failed to happen.
"Max obviously took the next lap to protect against Valtteri but with Lewis having just over three seconds of margin, we thought that he would have just enough protection from the undercut but that wasn't the case," said Shovlin, according to Motorsport.com and Sky Sports F1.
“Even now, we don't fully understand why our models were telling us that we would have been OK.
"The pitstops were good, the hard tyre was obviously quick but there's more that we need to go through to understand why we lost the place."
Shovlin added that they still need to figure out where they lost half a second of that three seconds that handed the lead to the Red Bull driver.
“We can account for about two and a half seconds of the three seconds. But it's something that we need to dig into the fine detail to understand how we were undercut from so far back because we weren't expecting that.”
Mercedes weren’t helped by the fact that Valtteri Bottas had to pit earlier than planned as the Finn had a bad vibration and they were concerned that he could have a failure.
Those earlier than expected stops meant Bottas had to do 36 laps on the hards, with Hamilton needing to do 34.
“It was uncomfortably early to go to the end, which, I think as the race played out, you saw that that was the case,” Shovlin said.
“And also the concern on Valtteri’s car was that he was getting an increasing vibration that was getting worse and worse every lap, that was starting to get to levels where we will box the car for reliability concerns.
“So really, the focus was on making sure that we didn't have an issue on track with him, so that was why we did it.
“In reality, Valtteri's stop triggered the pit stops at the front of the grid. And that was what drove us to having to do a very long, long stint with Lewis.”
Morning rain meant the track had become green for the Grand Prix as the FIA Formula 3 feature race was held in wet conditions. Highter than expected tyre degradation saw some stay with a one-stopper, to varying degrees of success, whilst others went with a two-stop strategy, including race-winner Max Verstappen.
Sergio Perez sat inside Mercedes’ pit window throughout the whole race and Shovlin admits it made them commit to a one-stop with Hamilton because of the Mexican’s long first stint.
"We could see the degradation was higher than expected but were wary of the two-stop strategy with Lewis as we'd need to pass Perez who had relatively fresh tyres; once Max made the move our best option was to see if we could just hang on but unfortunately the race was a couple of laps too long for us," explained Shovlin.
"With Valtteri we'll review whether we should have converted to a two stop but as with Lewis, we were afraid of the fact that Sergio's tyres were relatively fresh and unsure if we'd have the speed to pass on track."
Morning Team 🙏 This season = 🤯 pic.twitter.com/xOBXMXP1RM— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) June 21, 2021