Formula 1

Mercedes Defend Chief Strategist Vowles after Failure to Pit Hamilton under Virtual Safety Car

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Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport - Austrian Grand Prix
Credit: Steve Etherington

Toto Wolff insists James Vowles still has the full support of everyone within the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team despite the mistake in failing to pit Lewis Hamilton when the Virtual Safety Car was deployed during the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Vowles, the chief strategist at Mercedes, was in charge of deciding whether or not the then-race leader should pit when the VSC was deployed when Valtteri Bottas stopped at turn four following a mechanical issue, but Hamilton continued on when both Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari opted to double-stack their drivers and make their pit stop without losing too much time.

Hamilton was forced to pit therefore under green flag conditions, meaning that he fell from the lead down to fifth place, but Wolff, the Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, has defended Volwes and says he is one of the ‘best ever’ in the role.

“We don’t need to make changes,” Wolff is quoted as saying by Motorsport.com. “The most important thing is to understand why an error happens, and go back into the situation and analyse it.

“I don’t think that we would make an error twice. It’s just that the situation is very complex, we are fighting [between] six cars and it’s just a tough situation.

“For me, James is one of the best ever, and it needs guts to come out and in order to save the best possible result go out there and say in front of millions of people and say, ‘That was my mistake, now you can still do this, with the car you have’.”

Putting Vowles onto the radio to Hamilton to admit it was a team mistake was an attempt to motivate the reigning World Champion, with Wolff saying it was aimed at ensuring the Briton kept on fighting to regain positions.

“For Lewis, leading the race comfortably and coming out in P4, it was a moment where he was really suffering,” said Wolff.  “And we thought that it wasn’t all over. We wanted to recover the maximum points that we could, and at that stage we were all in pain about the mistake that we’d made.

“James coming onto the radio is the mindset that we have, we are able to say that we’ve done a mistake and in order to close the matter, and also to give him peace of mind that there’s complete acknowledgement within the team that that has gone wrong, and it was our mistake, in order make him park the thought.

“It was about extracting what was left of performance in him, and helping him out of the mind loop of ‘How can this possibly have happened?’ By admitting the mistake it’s easier to get yourself out of the spiral.”

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