Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles admitted that the team made the wrong strategy calls for both its drivers in the 2022 Mexican Grand Prix. Mercedes started the race on medium tyres. On the other hand, Red Bull opted for soft tyres for the race start. The plan for Mercedes was that they couldn’t match Red Bull’s race pace if they made the same tyre choice as them. So, defending their decision as out-of-the-box thinking, they opted to start on medium tyres and switch to hards. The idea behind this thinking was that if Red Bull pitted early from soft to hard tyres, they would be running with less pace at the end of the race due to tyre degradation. And if they opted for medium tyres, they might have to make another stop at some point. Mercedes’s strategy showed clear signs that they had planned for one stop.
Table of Contents
- Mercedes Hoped the Medium Tyres wouldn’t last the distance for Red Bull
- Ricciardo employed the strategy which Russell wanted to do
- James Vowles explaining Mercedes’s decision for the tyre choice
- Why didn’t Mercedes put Russell on a strategy similar to Ricciardo’s?
- Vowles admits fitting hard tyres was the wrong decision
- Mercedes still chasing their first race win for 2022
Mercedes Hoped the Medium Tyres wouldn’t last the distance for Red Bull
Perez stopped on Lap 23 for medium tyres during the race, and Verstappen on Lap 25. The ball was in the Mercedes court now, and many thought they were in a prime position to win the race. However, as soon as Mercedes pitted their drivers from medium to hard tyres, they realized the potential win they hoped for might not materialize.
During multiple radio transmissions from Lewis Hamilton and George Russell to the pit wall, the Mercedes driver complained that they had stopped too early and could have stretched their stints to a few more laps. From there, they could have pitted for soft tyres, and with less fuel load and more rubber laid on the track, they would be driving with the faster tyre and would be able to catch Verstappen. This strategy would have proved much more effective, as shown by Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren, who pitted at Lap 40.
Ricciardo employed the strategy which Russell wanted to do
Ricciardo overtook several cars on the grid, and the Aussie driver fully used the soft tyres. He was driving with a 10-second time penalty for causing a crash with Tsunoda, and he knew that he would have to build a 10-second gap to the car behind to keep whatever finish position he would have ended his race on. Ricciardo managed to do the exact thing when he overtook Estaban Ocon for P7 at Lap 61. From there on, he extended his lead to Ocon to 10+ seconds, and when the race finished on Lap 71, Ricciardo didn’t lose any position to the cars behind.
George Russell was adamant about extending his hard tyre stint, but the Mercedes pit wall denied his request. They thought that they would be able to catch the Red Bulls in the closing stages of the race. However, the Red Bull team’s medium compound tyres didn’t degrade fast enough, and in the end, Verstappen won the race with a comfortable 15-second lead to Lewis Hamilton.
James Vowles explaining Mercedes’s decision for the tyre choice
In the post-race debrief, Vowles said: “We decided that track position was more important at that stage, and we had some data from [Nicholas] Latifi that had already stopped and hard wasn’t terrible. So we opted to stop, put Lewis on the hard tyre and go towards the end of the race, hoping that Verstappen would drop off that medium curve much as we did see degradation at the end of our stint.”
Why didn’t Mercedes put Russell on a strategy similar to Ricciardo’s?
Regarding Russell’s lost opportunity, Vowles admitted: “With George, there was a lot more opportunity to keep going long and fit the soft tyre, and that was the plan. It was what we had discussed before the race, and it is what we discussed live during the race with George.”
“We carried on the stint, and we could see that George was starting to lose a lot of time relative to Perez and Lewis. That medium tyre was struggling at the end of its degradation stint; you would have heard George come on and begin to give indications about that as well.”
“The question now was, given we were struggling on the medium tyre after just 30 odd laps, would the soft tyre make the stint required?
Vowles admits fitting hard tyres was the wrong decision
“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 here, Perez likely 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 [Daniel] Ricciardo, we should have just kept going. Yes, there was degradation, and it was increasing, but we wouldn’t have to 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 we did.”
“So, first of all, I pick up the term aggressive. By starting on the medium, a big difference relative to Ferrari and Red Bull, which is aggressive in many forms because you are doing something very different to them.”
Mercedes still chasing their first race win for 2022
Mercedes are running out races to continue their impressive feat of winning at least one race in an F1 season since 2013. Lewis Hamilton’s record of winning a race in an F1 calendar year since 2008 is also in jeopardy. With two races remaining at Brazil and Abu Dhabi, and the Red Bulls showing no signs of slowing down, Mercedes would feel that Mexico was the best chance for them. While anything is possible in Formula 1, it would still take some miracle for Mercedes to beat Red Bull and Ferrari for a race win in the remaining two races.