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Mercedes process behind costly Hamilton mistake revealed

Mercedes only pitted George Russell during the only safety car period in last weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Hamilton Saudi race
To news overview © XPBimages

Mercedes' Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin has conceded that the Silver Arrows should have double-stacked under safety car conditions during last weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Brackley-based team only pitted George Russell – who finished sixth – on the lap seven as the race was neutralised as a consequence of Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll's crash at turn 22.

Of the frontrunners, only Hamilton and McLaren's Lando Norris did not pit, a strategy call which ultimately cost both drivers - the Mercedes driver finishing down in ninth at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, one spot behind his fellow Briton.

On whether Hamilton should have been pitted at the same time as Russell, Shovlin said: "With the benefit of hindsight, yes, we would have done that.

"What we didn't know at the time was whether there would be another incident and the other thing we didn't know, which is how durable the tyres were going to be.

"But that safety car that landed around lap seven, that was right on the point where we're deciding whether we come in or not with both cars. Had it been lap eight, lap nine, then probably we would have done.

"The downside if you were Lewis, as the car behind, is that you need to build a gap and you're not allowed to do that, you can't just push people back on track when there is a safety car. They obviously can't overtake you because you'll get a penalty for obstructing them.

"So when George is being serviced in the box, Lewis would have had a wait. You've also got cars coming down the pit lane where if there's a queue of cars coming down the pit lane, we can't release George and Lewis is stuck there, and it was simply that we felt he would lose time."

Gambling on another safety car

Having stayed out, Hamilton and Mercedes were left hoping for a second safety car period which ultimately never came.

Explaining the strategy further, Shovlin added: "We were also covering our bases that if there was another safety car later on in the race, he would have been able to take the benefit from that and then you've got cars on offset strategies.

"So as I said, if we knew what would have happened subsequently, for sure we would have done [pitted] them both.

"It would have been the right thing for Lewis but at that point that it landed, it was right at the point of the race where we would have done just one and then two laps later would have done them both."

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