Andrew Shovlin admits it was frustrating to see the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team lose out on victory in Sunday’s French Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen overhauling Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap at the Circuit Paul Ricard to take his third victory of 2021.
There was even more disappointment for Mercedes as Valtteri Bottas also lost a podium finish late in the day, with the Finn losing out to the second Red Bull of Sergio Pérez. The result sees Verstappen pull further away at the head of the Drivers’ Championship and Red Bull likewise draw away from Mercedes in the Constructors’ battle.
Both Hamilton and Bottas complained about their tyres suffering in France, with both losing performance in the closing laps that made life easier of Red Bull, who played a different tactical battle and came out on top when it mattered.
And Shovlin, the Track Engineering Director at Mercedes, says they will need to go away an identify the reasons why Red Bull were able to out perform the team around a track traditionally classed as a Mercedes stronghold.
“A frustrating day, we had a good opportunity to win and get both cars on the podium so the result is obviously very disappointing,” said Shovlin. “Lewis had control of the race in the first stint and if anything we looked to be a bit better on degradation.
“We triggered the stops ourselves with Valtteri who was struggling with a growing vibration and that was clearly earlier than we wanted to come in but it was getting to a level where we didn’t have an option.
“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.
“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 admitted that the degradation levels seen on Sunday exceeded what the team were expecting, and by the time they were in a position to consider making a second stop with either Hamilton or Bottas, it was clear that they were too late to make the strategy work.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“We’ve not got long to prepare for the next race and there are some areas we know we can do a better job on; we’ve clearly got a decent race car, we need to find a bit of speed on single lap and we need to be perfect on our operations but we’re happy that we’ll be back on track in a week.”