Lewis Hamilton had a poor weekend at the Monaco GP as he finished down in seventh place, his worst points-paying result of the season. The Mercedes did not look good from Saturday morning onwards in the hands of Hamilton as Valtteri Bottas seemed to fare better for the majority of the weekend.
The Brit was clearly disgruntled with the team during the race, as he lost out to Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez in the pitstop phase of the race. But it was his torrid qualifying performance with Hamilton only managing to put his Mercedes onto the fourth row of the grid.
With Max Verstappen dominating his way to victory at Monaco, where did it all go wrong for the seven-time world champion?
Why the lack of pace for Hamilton?
Coming into the weekend, Hamilton and Mercedes played down their chances but on Thursday it looked like the world champion would be in the fight for the all-important pole position.
After the day off, temperatures cooled down which did not benefit the handling of the Mercedes. The W12 seems to enjoy the warmer conditions and Hamilton had a nice balance with the car during the first two practice sessions, only for the weather to throw things off track.
"There will be some tough discussions that we're going to have with my engineers tonight, or maybe after the weekend," Hamilton told RacingNews365.com and other select members of the press after qualifying on Saturday.
"There's things that should have been done, and haven't been done. But we will learn from it and come together, stronger in the next race."
Mercedes did have pace
Looking at the optimal sector times from qualifying, Bottas actually had the best lap so the pace was in the Mercedes machine. It was simply a case of Hamilton not being able to find the right balance which did not give him the confidence he needed going into Q3.
Hamilton stayed out in the first two parts of qualifying, doing multiple laps to try and get as much track time as possible and to understand how he could extract the performance from the Pirelli rubber.
"We definitely struggle [with getting heat into the tyres] and I think this is magnified here being that it's obviously a low energy circuit," Hamilton told the press. "There's not really any high speed areas and today it was much cooler. So it's sort of get worse over the day or so.
"So I'm not really sure how Valtteri [Bottas] is able to get his tyres working. I saw a glimpse of grip on that last lap, but it was short lived. So there'll be a lot of analysis."
Hamilton started to overdrive the Mercedes as soon as he saw that time was running out in Q3. He ran wide at the hairpin and brushed the wall going into Portier before abandoning his lap after another mistake at the fast left-hander of Tabac.
One problem led to another for Hamilton which is why he could only qualify in seventh place.
Mercedes' strategy blunder
Hamilton held his position at the start of the race and Mercedes decided to try and undercut their way past Pierre Gasly. However, this strategic move did not quite work and the Brit was clearly angry on the radio when he said he "saved his tyres to go longer".
However, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff feels this strategy was not possible on Sunday.
"We felt the undercut was the right thing to do in order to pass Gasly and that's what we did," Wolff told RacingNews365.com and other select members of the press.
"The pitstop was good, the outlap was good and we thought one and a half seconds was close enough to undercut.
"Our degradation was worse than other cars and we were finished with the tyres. On Lewis' car when analysed the tyres after the stop, there wasn't anything left either so there wasn't enough performance to overcut."
Sometimes, the Pirelli rubber can go through a graining phase and you can recover the tyres to it's fascinating to see that Hamilton and Mercedes were split on what the best strategy was.
On paper, it looks like Mercedes dropped the ball with strategy and this might still be the case. But if we are to believe what Wolff says, Mercedes did not have the superior tyre wear that they have had at every other race this season.
Monaco highlighted Mercedes' biggest weakness
In the past, Mercedes have had issues on softer tyre compounds over one lap. They seem to gain less time compared to Red Bull and Ferrari when going from the medium to the soft tyre.
The C5 compound made it's debut in 2021 at Monaco and with limited practice, Mercedes failed to gain the knowledge they needed to switch the tyre on in cool conditions - at least for Hamilton.
Azerbaijan is up next and the same C3-C4-C5 tyre compounds will be used there. Baku is a completely different circuit but the three hours of practice should give Mercedes the time they need to understand the softer Pirelli rubber which has been changed for this year.
Once they learn how to get the most from the tyres, expect Hamilton to be ahead of Bottas in qualifying. Mercedes' Monaco disappointment should be a one-off.