Andrew Shovlin said Lewis Hamilton winning the Hungarian Grand Prix was a positive way to go into the summer break, but it was a far from simple afternoon all round for the Mercedes AMG Motorsport team on Sunday.
Shovlin, the Chief Race Engineer of Mercedes, was disappointed to see the second car of Valtteri Bottas drop out of contention early on after first lap contact with Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc left him with a broken front wing. The Finn was forced to pit for a replacement as he was losing too much time running with the damage, but the pit stop relegated him to the back of the field.
Bottas was forced to fight his way through the pack, with a second pit stop enabling him to move from twelfth up to eighth in the final result, a far from satisfactory outcome for the driver currently second in the Drivers’ Championship.
“The race didn’t start the way we’d hoped,” admitted Shovlin. “Valtteri suffered front wing damage when Charles cut across him at turn three.
“We couldn’t really run for long in that condition without risk of a bigger issue so we decided to stop for hard tyres and a new wing but from that point on, it was just a case of salvaging what we could with Valtteri.
“There’s no way we would have managed to take the Hard tyres to the end of the race with Valtteri so we converted to see if we could overtake on fresher rubber. It was a shame not to have recovered more with Valtteri, but this is such a difficult track to try and recover positions on.”
Whereas Bottas was out of position, team-mate Hamilton was embroiled in a race long battle with polesitter Max Verstappen, with a pit stop gamble from Mercedes giving him the fresh tyre advantage in the closing laps that allowed him to catch and pass the Red Bull Racing driver for the win.
The first stint saw Hamilton shadow Verstappen as the two pulled away from the rest of the field, and the first round of pit stops saw the Dutchman retain his advantage. However, as it became clear that it would be almost impossible to pass with similar tyre life, Hamilton pitted once more and used his pace advantage to close down more than a twenty-second lead and take over at the front.
“We had more decisions to make with Lewis and the race against Verstappen was made more difficult by only having one car at the front,” said Shovlin. “In the first stint there wasn’t really an opportunity to get by but keeping at Max’s pace was not too difficult and Lewis was able to keep his tyres in good condition.
“By staying close we managed to force them into stopping earlier than they would have liked and that ultimately created the opportunity to go for the two-stop. We weren’t sure whether it would work or not; it’s always a bit of a gamble but we thought there was a risk of them running out of tyres and it did at least prevent Max from being able to manage his tyres as he might have liked.
“Lewis did a great job in the final stint, to pull back a full pitstop gap is never easy but he managed it brilliantly and made a really nice clean overtake.”
Shovlin said it was pleasing to end the first half of the season and go into the summer break after two less than simple races in Germany and Hungary. Hamilton’s win added to the two points he earned at the Hockenheimring, while Bottas crashed out in Germany so only scored four points across the double header.
“This hasn’t been the easiest pair of back to back races, Hockenheim was really tough on the team but it’s great for everyone to be able to go into the summer break with a win,” concluded Shovlin.