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Mercedes Defend Tyre Strategy at Japanese GP 

Mercedes wanted the option of a one-stop left open, so on the restart opted to go for the hard tyres....

It wasn’t the best weekend for Mercedes at the Japanese Grand Prix. It wasn’t one to forget like Australia, but it wasn’t one to remember either. In part this was due to their indecisiveness over tyre strategy, but ultimately the team had little choice given their tyre allocation.

Mercedes wanted the option of a one-stop left open, so on the restart opted to go for the hard tyres. The team explained that their given their tyre allocation (2 Hard, 1 Medium), they were able to give themselves “the possibility of looking at either a one or two stop after the red flag – hence the hard tyre restart,” according to a Mercedes spokesperson.

George Russell believes “it was the right decision, starting on the Hards… If we started on the Medium after the red flag, you’re committed to the two-stop.”

The team knew “Suzuka would not be [their] strongest track” and understood that P6 “was likely the maximum today” though they couldn’t reach it this time around.

Hamilton: “That’s Why I Let George By”

Lewis Hamilton was struggling so much that he let Russell pass him on the opening stint. He suspected that he might have some damage after being passed by Charles Leclerc in turn three at the restart.

“I think I picked up a bit of damage at the beginning when Charles came around on the outside and had huge understeer for the first stint,” Hamilton explained. “I couldn’t turn the car into any of the corners – that’s why I let George by.”

Would Mercedes’ race have gone better had they opted to start with the Medium tyres? Hamilton isn’t sure but thought two hard tyre stints was going to be “a real challenge” regardless of which compound they started on.

“I don’t know what the different strategy would have been, whether we should’ve stayed on the medium to start with,” he said. “But we still had two really terrible hard tyres to run through. So a real challenge today.”

The Mercedes pair ultimately finished in P7 (Russell) and P9 (Hamilton) with both having abandoned the one-stop strategy.

Wolff: “The Car is Becoming Quicker”

Toto Wolff knows that the team is under pressure and made sure he was present in Japan after initial plans to skip the grand prix. For his part, the team principal blamed an “atrocious first stint” for the result.

“We ended up where we started,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1. “It was just very difficult. We had a second that was super quick and we would have been racing for a podium but an atrocious first stint.

“We need to find out what it was. Was it too hot? Were we overmanaging?”

Despite the lacklustre result, leaving them just a single point ahead of Aston Martin in the Constructors’, Wolff feels progress has been made on the car.

“I think it’s much better than it looks than the final result,” he explained. “And also in qualifying there’s lots we learned. It’s going to get better from here.

“We need to be quick on all circuits. There’s no excuse on temperatures or track layout. We have to sort it out.

“This is live testing for us. We have changed things massively and this is reflected in the result. The car is becoming quicker.”

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