Date published: September 11 2019
Mercedes’ motorsport strategy director James Vowles says that putting Lewis Hamilton on the hard tyres at Monza would have been “devastating”.
Hamilton made his only stop of the race a lap before Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to fit the medium tyres and attempt the undercut.
However, Leclerc was given the hard compound, something which raised a few eyebrows considering how little they had been used throughout the weekend, but it paid off as Leclerc held off both Silver Arrows to record Ferrari’s first win on home soil since 2010.
Despite coming up short though Vowles believes that putting Hamilton on the hard tyres as well would have been “devastating” for his race.
“Free practice on Friday in Monza was very interrupted, we had four red flags and rain on and off throughout all of the sessions,” he explained in Mercedes’ PurePitWall debrief.
“The only long runs we did at the end of FP2 were even then affected by drizzle and meant they are not representative of what was going to happen in the race which was going to be warmer and dry.
“Nobody ran the hards and indeed the first signs we saw of them were in the race when [Sebastian] Vettel stopped after his early issue and he was fighting back through the field.
“It looked robust, but a little bit slow. Sensible if you want to go to the end of the race from the beginning, but not necessarily the right tyre for a one-stop race which both Ferrari and ourselves knew it would be.
“As we got towards the stop we saw an opportunity when [Carlos] Sainz came out of our pit window. It was an undercut, we were around 1.5s behind [Charles] Leclerc at the time with Lewis and to fit the hard tyre would have been really devastating to the undercut.
“If you are going to go for the undercut you need the softest rubber available to do that and that was the medium compound, it was the best chance of making that undercut work.
“Lewis did an exceptional out-lap. He did everything he could, he used the engine modes the way he should be using them, ultimately Leclerc was able to box one lap later and come out six tenths ahead of him, one small trip up from Ferrari at the pit stop would have been enough.”
Vowles admits that Mercedes weren’t able to capitalize on the opportunities they had to get Hamilton ahead of Leclerc and into the lead.
“The reality is we closed in, but we weren’t close enough to be able to complete the undercut,” he explained.
“Lewis now though was in the position where he was on warm medium tyres against Leclerc’s hard tyres that needed to warm up and it was one of our best opportunities.
“There were two Renault’s ahead and it became difficult because they were providing a tow or even at some points getting in Leclerc’s way and it was an interesting race, but ultimately we weren’t able to capitalize properly on that situation as much as Lewis tried.”