Having pitted on lap 23 and switched to the hards, not for the first time Lewis Hamilton feared that his team had gone in the wrong direction in terms of strategy, the Briton concerned that the white-banded rubber would not last the remaining 47 laps.
However, Toto Wolff reveals that it was the pace of Daniel Ricciardo, the only driver to start the race on hards, that convinced Mercedes it was the right thing to do, though initially he shared his driver’s concern.
“We were not convinced,” admitted the Austrian. “There were two main factors. One we knew that we had to take a risk when you are starting third and sixth. It is easier to come up with some bold strategies providing you come up with a good car, which we had, and fantastic drivers. So we knew we needed to do something different.
“We saw Ricciardo going long on the hard tyres,” he continued, “I think he had 30-odd laps and was posting green lap times. We had quite some discussion and in the end, what James and his strategy department opted to go long, it worked out.
“We knew it was going to be stretched and even the best driver needs to rely on the material,” said the Austrian. “Forty seven laps sounded almost impossible, but then when you look at the data from the first stint and Ricciardo and Max going strong, it kind of made sense.
“But visualising 47 laps, it sounded like an awful lot of laps,” he admitted.
Wolff also admits that his team considered the main threat to Hamilton to be Vettel, as opposed to Leclerc.
“Vettel was more of a worry,” he said. “We thought a two-stop could have been the main game plan in the beginning. But in the first stint, the tyres behaved so well and held on so much better than expected that we pretty early on in the race switched to the one stop. So we were quite surprised early on that Leclerc committed so early to the two stop. Vettel was the worry for us.”
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