The Formula One 2022 Dutch GP was for the early part of the race not particularly enthralling. Ferrari provided the early entertainment by completely messing up Carlos Sainz pit strategy handing the two Mercedes a free pass. The Red Bulls and Ferrari’s began the race on the softer tyre while the Mercedes duo decided to start the race on the slower but longer lasting Pirelli medium tyres.
Lewis Hamilton took the lead of the race as the Ferrari’s and Verstappen pitted and Russell was in P2. 18 laps later Hamilton stopped for the hardest tyre compound clearly planning to run on them to the end of the race. Russell stopped two laps later for the same tyres as his team mate.
Due to a Ferrari error Carlos Sainz was delayed by around 12 seconds and the Mercedes were behind LeClerc and Verstappen with both there Monegasque and Dutch drivers having to stop again later.
Ferrari pitted LeClerc on lap 45 for hard tyres to run to the end. He fell behind the Mercedes duo but had much fresher tyres.
Then two laps later Tsunoda’s failing Alpha Tauri caused a Virtual Safety Car affording Max Verstappen the opportunity to pit for fresh rubber and retain the lead. Mercedes quick thinking saw them stop both cars on the same lap realising they would be better able to defend from this also stopping behind.
Now it looked like a win for Verstappen and a P2 for Hamilton and Russell, but the F1 gods were to throw another spanner in the hopes of Lewis Hamilton hoping to win his first race of the season.
Valterri Bottas Ferrari powered Alfa Romeo failed and stopped at the end of the main straight causing a full safety car.
Race Control threw a full safety car caution but the location of Bottas car meant the safety car led the train of F1 cars through the pit lane. This gave the drivers the opportunity to take fresh tyres and only lose around 3 seconds.
Verstappen pitted from the lead to get rid of the hard tyres and put on a set of new soft and quick red Pirelli’s. He fell behind Lewis Hamilton who decided to retain track position but on older tyres.
George Russell made the call to the team to pit for the same tyres as Verstappen but Hamilton’s radio was silent.
Russell came out behind Verstappen who was following Hamilton in the lead.
Of course at the restart Verstappen overtook Hamilton before the end of the pit straight. Russell was next to pas the British driver with LeClerc following suit.
Hamilton finished P4 off the podium and must be rueing the same mistake as the team made in Abu Dhabi which cost him a world title.
Toto Wolff claimed after the race that they left Hamilton out to gain track position for the win. But with over 10 laps to go and Lewis’ competitors all on fresh rubber the team clearly hadn’t learned the tough lessons from the 2021 season finale.
In Abu Dhabi Hamilton only had 1 lap to survive an attack from Verstappen on fresh tyres and failed to do so. How the team and Lewis believed he could hang on for the win is beyond belief.
One social media commentator questioned whether Mercedes has recruited a race strategist from Ferrari and Wolff’s excuses are delusional too.
In 2022 the fact that cars can follow closely has changed everything. Track position is less important and Mercedes were using an old strategy play book.
Red Bull clearly intended to sacrifice track position and two stop from the get go as they’d kept an extra set of soft tyres from qualifying. Further at the fist stop they fitted medium tyres on Verstappen’s car which had no hope of making the it to the end.
The team from Milton Keynes this season have regularly changed their race strategy from 2021 at each circuit, stopping more frequently and racing on quicker tyres for longer.
Mercedes need to get with the programme and realise track position is no longer the Kingpin strategy they used to win 8 championships from 2014.