The last two Formula 1 races have presented two of the best opportunities for Mercedes to win their first Grand Prix of the season. Lewis Hamilton was seemingly able to challenge Max Verstappen for victory at both the US and Mexico Grands Prix, with Team Principal Toto Wolff admitting that Mexico was their best shot at ending their win drought in 2022. Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto pointed towards Mercedes and highlighted how their tyre choices in qualifying at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez sealed their fate in the races. Mercedes Motorsport Strategy Director, James Vowles, believes that "with hindsight" using a new set of Softs would've led to a "better race" at Mexico.
Mercedes thought Soft and Medium tyres would not go the distance
Mercedes elected to run both their cars on four new sets of Soft tyres in qualifying throughout Q1, Q2 and Q3, to ensure they qualified on the front row. This left only the Medium and Hard tyres to be used for the race. Speaking on the team's Race Debrief video, Vowles said the team was more focused on maintaining track position in Mexico, believing that neither the Soft nor Medium tyres would last on a one-stop strategy. “We had two choices: let Perez effectively undercut us but go long and then fit the Soft tyres or stop, and given the length of stint the Hard would have been really the tyre that could have made it, the Soft would not have made that level of stint. "We decided that track position was more important at that stage and furthermore we had some data from Latifi that had already stopped and Hard wasn’t terrible. "So we opted to stop, put Lewis on the Hard tyre and go to the end of the race under the hope that potentially Verstappen was going to drop off that Medium curve much as we did see degradation at the end of our stint."
One-stop only viable option for Hamilton
As was evidenced by Daniel Ricciardo at the end of the race, a new set of Softs at the end enabled him to pass all of the midfield runners on the Hard. Ricciardo even earned a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision with Yuki Tsunoda, and still fought through the field to finish in P7. However, the difference between new and used set of Softs can influence a stint massively. If the new tyre has been introduced during the race, it will last a lot longer compared to when it has been abused trying to produce a qualifying lap. Vowles said it was a "hard choice" for the team to opt with the Medium/Hard strategy but concedes that it was the only likely option for them because Hamilton only had one set of used Softs available. “It was a hard choice, but we decided on balance stopping and fitting the Hard tyre would probably bring us a better result in the belief that, if we are struggling on the Medium tyre, Perez probably won't make it to the end of the race, and they need to stop one more time. "That in hindsight was a wrong decision and I think if you look back and you look at Ricciardo we should have just kept going. "Yes, there was degradation [on the Medium] but we wouldn’t have gone much further before we could fit the Soft tyre. What the result would have been I am not sure, but I think it would have been a better race than what we did.”