Mercedes Director Shovlin Blames ‘Annoying’ Strategic Model for Costing Hamilton F1 Victory

Published 06/21/2021, 5:15 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – French Grand Prix – Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France – June 20, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton during the press conference FIA/Handout via REUTERS


Since its return to the calendar in 2018, the French Grand Prix became a Mercedes stronghold. Lewis Hamilton took back-to-back wins in 2018 and 2019 before COVID-19 canceled the 2020 edition.

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However, Red Bull turned it around on the Silver Arrows this Sunday, with Max Verstappen finishing ahead of Hamilton to win the race. Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin outlined how their models meddled with their strategy.

Shovlin believes Mercedes’ strategic models got Max Verstappen’s undercut on Lewis Hamilton wrong

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Although Verstappen pitted in Lap 18 before Hamilton, the Briton had a three-second gap before the Dutchman dived into the pits. Despite Hamilton pitting in the very next lap, Verstappen’s out-lap was good enough for him to take the lead.

This undercut from Red Bull worked wonders as Mercedes thought Hamilton was safe from their strategy. However, the Silver Arrows got it wrong, with Verstappen’s two-stop strategy adding insult to injury.

Formula One F1 – French Grand Prix – Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France – June 20, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in action at the end of the race REUTERS/Yves Herman

After the race, Shovlin pointed out what went wrong with their strategy. Although he believed both drivers could take podium places, he admitted their models made a costly error. The Briton said, “It is annoying because I think we could have won the race.

“I think we could have had two cars on the podium and we’re in a championship where we can’t really afford to let these opportunities go by the way we did today.

“We thought, when we had just over three seconds to Max, we were safe from the undercut. And that wasn’t the case. Even now we don’t fully understand why our models were telling us that we would have been okay. So clearly, there’s something we need to go off and understand there.”

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Shovlin: Hamilton on a two-stop wouldn’t work

Red Bull saved their pièce de résistance for the very end, with Verstappen switching to a two-stop strategy on Lap 32. The Dutchman passed Hamilton in the penultimate lap, with Mercedes getting caught out.

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Shovlin believes a two-stop strategy wouldn’t work for Hamilton due to Verstappen’s pace. He said, “Converting Lewis to a two-stop wouldn’t have worked the same because Max only just got us, and we would have had to get through Sergio and of course, that’s going to be more difficult for Lewis than it was for Max.”

Although they didn’t make the most of their record in Le Castellet, the Silver Arrows have no room to breathe with the next race in Austria inching closer. Despite the Red Bull Ring being a home race for their title rivals, Mercedes need a good result this weekend.

Can Hamilton close the gap down to Verstappen on June 27?

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Sanket Nair

344 articles

Sanket Nair is an F1 Author at EssentiallySports. A Sports Management student, he is a huge fan of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo and hopes to see Red Bull break Mercedes' dominance and win the World Championship soon. Sanket has been hooked to the sport ever since he watched the battle for the 2010 World Championship go down to the wire at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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