Mercedes: Offering late stop to Hamilton was "plain dumb"
Mercedes Formula 1 team technical director James Allison has called the decision to give Lewis Hamilton the opportunity to pit under the final safety car in the Brazilian Grand Prix “dumb” and a “rookie error.”
Allison also admits that the team was wrong to put the decision in the hands of the driver himself, especially as Hamilton was given incorrect information on how many places he would lose by stopping.
Hamilton was running second behind Max Verstappen in the closing laps of the race when the clash between the Ferraris triggered a safety car. He slowed and was approaching the pit entry when his engineer Pete Bonnington twice repeated the message, “Let us know if you want tyres, you will lose one place.”
After a pause, Hamilton initially said: “'You make the decision." This, however, was followed by “I'll come in, I'll come in” just as he reached the pit entry.
Having passed Gasly he made contact with Albon, was re-passed by Gasly, and crossed the line in third place. He subsequently received a five-second penalty, dropping him further down the field.
“Having not had the shiniest of races to that point, we then just did something plain dumb, which was - we thought we were exchanging a place for fresh rubber with enough laps left to get that place back properly and then have a go for the lead," Allison explained.
“That was just factually incorrect because we were exchanging two places, we hadn't factored [in] Gasly and secondly with the amount of debris on the track, there was just a lot more laps taken up by the safety car than we'd anticipated.
"And that was just, I think, that your rookie error of a not quite quick enough car on the day and trying to stretch too far for victory. It wasn't on, we just made a mistake.”
Allison placed no blame on Hamilton for responding to the offer to pit for fresh tyres.
“In fact, this was entirely our fault," he insisted. "Because we saw what we thought was a fleeting opportunity. It was not at all clear to us that it was the right thing to do. But there was a possibility.
“We thought, well, let's let's give Lewis a chance to give his view, which we shouldn't have done because we didn't give him the right information. We said one place and it was two and secondly, we should have just made the call ourselves. So he uhmmed and ahhed for a second or two before diving in the pits, because he likes racing. But that was our mistake.
“I think from the moment that we made the call it was like a heart-sink moment after he emerged from the box behind Gasly and then we just were thinking: 'Why do we do that?' "
More from Brazilian GP:
Ferrari drivers escape punishment for clash
Sainz's Brazilian Grand Prix podium confirmed