For the second time in a row, Mercedes was not able to respond quickly enough to Sebastian Vettel’s strategy change and as a result, lost another race to the Red team.
In the Bahrain GP, the Silver Arrows squad was convinced their strategy of using mediums will force Vettel to eventually go for a second pitstop, which would give an opening to Valtteri Bottas to take away the lead. They were too slow to realize that the German changed his plan once he found out teammate Kimi Raikonen was out of action and as a result, pushed his tyres till the end of the race.
The four times world champion took the tyre to its limits and made them last long enough on the track to win the race, but it took Mercedes too long to figure this out.
Mercedes technical director James Allison admitted the delay and said if they had realized Vettel’s intention, they would have asked Bottas to increase his pace earlier.
Speaking in the regular post-race Pure Pit Wall debrief, he said: “We were probably a little bit too slow to recognise the threat that Sebastian was actually going to take the soft tyres all the way to the flag,”
“Had we been slightly quicker to react to it we would probably have kept more pressure on him on the laps 35-45, and we might have had a better outcome as a result.
“We expected him to stop again, but he did very, very well in nursing those tyres all the way to the flag.”
He added: “Valtteri did manage to close down on Vettel, with three laps to go we were hard up against his bumper but we were not quite good enough to get past him.
“Probably if the race had been a lap or two longer it would have been a different outcome but we left our charge, a little bit too late and weren’t able to get the race win.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and the team thought that they are well poised to win the race after Bottas emerged on mediums. Allison’s admission means the team finally understood they made a mistake.
“I think we had won the race already, after coming out on the medium behind Sebastian with a gap that we were able to close down, knowing they would either have to stop once again, or they would run out of tyre if we were to push them,” he said.
“This was the moment I would say 90 percent probability was on us winning was. And we lost that.”
He also dismissed the idea that they didn’t allow Bottas to chase Vettel earlier due to worry of tyre wear out
“The tyre wear of our car this year has been very good and in general better than the field,” he explained.
“Whether specifically, we could have made the soft tyres last the number of laps that Sebastian did we would only know by trying. My guess is we would because our car is looking after its tyres very well in the races this year.”