Over the past weekend, F1 leaders, Mercedes, had their current best driver, Lewis Hamilton, not just win the Russian Grand Prix, but break a magnificent record as a result. But what transpired before the monumental win was anything but easy or fun.
There were a series of errors that could have led to a terrible performance if not for a timely decision by their technical team, which proved vital.
According to Mercedes team technical director, Mike Elliot, Lewis Hamilton’s win could have very well ended in a bad failure. Apparently, it is very hard to decide between using slick tires meant for dry ground and intermediaries, which are mostly used on a wet course.
“It is actually really, really tricky in those situations to know what we should do,” revealed Elliot, who also said that strategists have to consider every possible outcome, and rely on both the driver and the weather forecast team to make a decision. “We are listening to the driver info, looking at weather forecasts.”
Elliot admitted that just like the current standings’ leader, Hamilton, emerged victoriously, he(Hamilton) could as well have run off the track or moved further back, something that depends on a momentary strategic decision.
Giving an example of Saturday’s qualifying round when Mercedes’ decision to change from intermediate to slick tires at the wrong time and place cost both their drivers better starting positions in Sunday’s race, Elliot stated that timing was key.
What works for other teams might not work for everyone, because their decision depends on where and when their driver is, not forgetting their strategist’s contribution.
The drivers, those reading the weather radar, and the final decision maker; the strategist, are at the heart of it all. Hamilton’s team was aware that his second-place prior to their decision would either take him into the lead or cost him a record.
In the end, his 100th win was aided by a clear call about the weather radar which assured rain and a wet course towards the end, hence causing a tire change from slicks to intermediaries.
“What they said is they expected more rain…the track was actually going to get wetter…pitting for the intermediaries,” Elliot revealed.