The Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix on Sunday saw Lewis Hamilton’s hopes for a battle for first place dashed. The seven-time world champion fell victim to Mercedes’ strategy and finished fourth. Frustrated, the British driver let his anger explode on the radio. Toto Wolff was keen to justify the German team’s decision regarding Lewis Hamilton’s tyres, and hits back at his driver pointing out the positives, not the negatives.
This Sunday, Max Verstappen won again on home soil at the Dutch Grand Prix. The Red Bull driver has soared in the drivers’ standings and now has a 109-point lead over Charles Leclerc and Sergio Pérez. Mercedes, meanwhile, did well with second and fourth place finishes for George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.
But the seven-time world champion could have hoped for much better. At the end of the race, the British driver was very close to Max Verstappen when the safety car came out. In order for Lewis Hamilton to try and take and keep first place, Mercedes chose to leave him on track with his medium tyres.
In an apparent moment of deja vu, Red Bull took advantage of the race’s neutralisation to change his hard tyres for soft ones. Max Verstappen, who was second at the race restart, quickly overtook Lewis Hamilton to take the lead. The 37-year-old then saw George Russell and Charles Leclerc, also on soft tyres, pass him. Something he didn’t quite get over and took to the radio to vent anger at the team.
Lewis Hamilton felt cheated by the strategy implemented by Mercedes during the Dutch Grand Prix. The seven-time world champion was frustrated and had some harsh words for his team on the radio.
“It was monumental bullshit. I can’t believe you screwed me over. If you only knew how angry I am,” he raged.
Anger that Toto Wolff finds perfectly understandable. But speaking to Sky Sports, the Mercedes boss was keen to justify his team’s strategy:
“It’s very emotional for the driver, he’s so close to fighting for victory and he gets swallowed up [by his rivals], so it’s clear that the emotions come out. In the cockpit, the driver is alone and can’t see what’s going on. We discussed [whether] we took risks for the win.
“Yes, we took risks. [Hamilton] had five-lap old medium tyres, so keeping the position was the best thing to do. In the end it didn’t work out but I’d rather take the risk of winning the race with Lewis than finishing second and third [on new tyres].”
Toto Wolff was convinced that Lewis Hamilton had no chance of winning on the same tyres as Max Verstappen, as Red Bull’s top speed was far superior to Mercedes’. The German team then decided to split its strategy by only calling George Russell back to the pits, leaving the seven-time world champion with his worn tyres.
Toto Wolff felt that if the same strategy had been applied to both drivers, neither would have been able to fight for first place.
“Lewis is in the lead, so it always takes a bit longer with the call. We can do one of two things; either call Lewis back to the pits, lose track position to Verstappen and leave George out there being screwed, or call both back to the pits, which will be screwed,
“So it was worth taking the risk. By [leaving both drivers on track], both would have been on worn tyres. [By stopping them both] it would have ensured we would have finished second and third and we wouldn’t have been able to fight for the win with Lewis,” the Mercedes boss explained to Motorsport.com.
Immediately after the race, Toto Wolff hit out at Lewis Hamilton. The German team boss only wants to look at the positives of the Dutch Grand Prix:
“I think we can look at the positives and that’s what I just discussed with Lewis. There are so many positives to take away. Of course it’s annoying to finish second and fourth but we felt we had a good car here [at Zandvoort],
“That’s the most important thing and you have to take risks in the position we are in.”
With 30 points in the constructors’ standings, Mercedes is beginning to catch up with Ferrari. If the German team continues its momentum, it could be in a position to take second place behind Red Bull by the end of the season.