Andrew Shovlin admits Mercedes AMG Motorsport got the strategy calls for the Singapore Grand Prix wrong, with the decision not to pit earlier than Charles Leclerc costing Lewis Hamilton not only the race victory but also a podium finish.
Neither Hamilton nor team-mate Valtteri Bottas were able to finish inside the top three as Scuderia Ferrari secured their first one-two result of the season, Sebastian Vettel ahead of Charles Leclerc, while Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen completed the podium.
However, the missed opportunity to pit the lap before Leclerc ultimately did cost Hamilton the shot at the win, with the delay in hitting pit lane relegating him behind both Vettel and Verstappen and without a real hope of finishing inside the top three.
“We missed an open goal today by not taking the undercut on lap 19,” said Shovlin. “We had talked about it but didn’t really react quickly enough to how fast Charles’ tyres were dropping.
“We decided to call Valtteri to do the opposite to Verstappen on the lap that mattered but obviously we should have made that call with Lewis, and made it late enough that they would not be able to react. That was our opportunity to win and it’s upsetting when you let something like that slip through your fingers.”
Ultimately, Hamilton stayed out hoping to get lucky with a safety car, but it was not to be, and it was asked of Bottas to hang back to ensure the current World Champion came out on track in fourth and not sixth. Had Bottas not slowed down a little, Hamilton would have come out not only behind Bottas but also Red Bull’s Alexander Albon.
“We ended up boxing Valtteri first to avoid losing a place to Albon, which was the reason we asked him to maintain a gap, otherwise it would have forced Lewis in,” said Shovlin. “With Lewis we tried to stay out to maximise the tyre offset to the leading pack and see if we could get a Safety Car.
“We had lost the position to Vettel, but we consciously gave up the position to Verstappen to maximise this gamble. The sequence of Safety Cars at the end didn’t help our cause but it probably didn’t make much difference.”
Shovlin says Mercedes will be looking to return to winning ways sooner rather than later, with their last win coming in the Hungarian Grand Prix just prior to the summer break. Since then, Ferrari have won all three races, but with the Russian Grand Prix coming up this weekend, at least they have a chance to quickly get themselves back up to the front.
“It feels like a long time since we won a race and there’s no single reason for it, there are lots of areas that we need to improve and we’ll be working hard on these areas,” said Shovlin.
“We expect Sochi to be another tough fight, we’re not taking anything for granted but we’re happy that we only have to wait a few days before getting back out on track.”