Toto Wolff has taken responsibility for the chain of events that were to eventually lead to the need for team orders at Sochi today.
Pitting a lap later, Hamilton rejoined the race alongside Vettel, but the German had the speed advantage and held off the Briton. “Guys, what just happened,” asked Hamilton of his team.
Speaking after the race, team boss Toto Wolff admitted that Hamilton should indeed have pitted the lap after his teammate.
“We got tangled up in the way we called the pit stops,” Wolff told reporters. “We did the right thing by calling Valtteri in first, but we were one lap too late with Lewis.
“I’ll take it on me, because I was engaging with James in a conversation when he should have made the call,” he added, referring to strategist James Vowles. “And this is why he came in a lap too late and lost position. While we were considering what to do, I was in an exchange with James, and this made us pit one lap too late.
“We pitted Valtteri and then Lewis came on the radio and said it is one lap too late, Seb has pitted and we already committed to another one because we were having a discussion about it, and it was just this one session too much.”
In making the subsequent pass on Vettel which saw him take fourth – behind Raikkonen, Verstappen and Bottas – Hamilton blistered his tyres, thus setting in motion the chain of events that would eventually lead to the team ordering Bottas to yield to his teammate.
“Lewis had to fight hard to overtake Sebastian, which was really an awesome move, but blistered the tyres,” said Wolff. “And then we were in a situation that Valtteri in front managed the tyres, Lewis behind with a blistered rear and Sebastian all over Lewis.
“At that stage, there were two possible outcomes,” he admitted. “The best case would have been it stays like it is and we finish second with Lewis and win with Valtteri, the worst case was the blister wouldn’t last until the end and Lewis would have been overtaken by Sebastian in order to manage his tyres. This is why I think Valtteri in between was the call we made. Rationally, it was the right call to do, but our sporting heart says no.”
Despite growing anger from fans and indeed Hamilton himself, Wolff insists that had the blistering worsened it could have been disastrous for the world champion.
“We saw it at Spa,” he said, “we had to pit another time. Ferrari at Monza had a bad blistering problem and had to pit again. Imagine the scenario, having to pit Lewis again and finishing sixth or seventh. Finishing sixth, rather than winning the race. That’s the pressure moment where we made the call.”