It feels strange to be writing about poor strategy and Mercedes. It isn’t often that Mercedes gets the strategy so wrong, but the Dutch GP proved to be a very challenging race for all the teams thanks to the constantly changing conditions. Some teams adapted well; others made mistakes. Unfortunately for Mercedes, they made up the latter.
It wasn’t for lack of pace that Mercedes struggled over the weekend. The W14 was strong in both wet and mixed conditions as George Russell showed when he overtook Lando Norris for the lead on Lap 3.
The problem was made immediately clear when Mercedes elected not to pit after the rain started on Lap 1. Mercedes gambled on the rain either abating quickly or being light enough to avoid switching to intermediate tyres. Neither of those happened. They did eventually pit with Lewis Hamilton coming in on Lap 3 and Russell the lap after but by then it was too late and the drivers found themselves in P16 and P18, respectively.
“We stayed out catastrophically too long,” team principal Toto Wolff told Sky Sports F1. “Completely wrong. And that’s annoying because the car had great pace.”
“We didn’t anticipate how heavy the early shower was going to be,” Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said.
“The race was over before it really got started,” Russell said. “I think the information we had regarding the weather was totally wrong. We thought the rain was going to last for a couple of minutes – and it clearly lasted for longer. That was a real shame.”
Other teams made the decision to pit after Lap 1 with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc taking the initiative and coming into the pits regardless if the team were ready for him. Russell was asked if he could have done something similar and said he believed he could withstand the rain.
“They told me it’s going to be two minutes, and I could manage for two minutes in those conditions.
“But it just got heavier and heavier and it lasted for 10 minutes.
“So, it’s a joint effort… it was a real shame, to be honest, that it happened this way. But, live and learn.”
The team did manage a solid recovery, particularly Hamilton who believes that he had the pace to be challenging Max Verstappen up front.
“In those conditions, if we’d made the right call, I had the pace to be challenging the top two,” he told Sky Sports F1.
“I think we would have been challenging Max if I’m really honest.
“Particularly when we got to the dry, pace-wise I think we weren’t terribly far off. I’m not saying that we’d beat them, but I think we would have been [close].”
Lewis Hamilton finished P6 while Russell finished P17 due to a puncture on the closing laps.