F1 News

imitating Sainz's trick from Mercedes in Japan doomed to failure

Did Mercedes calculate the odds correctly? 'P7 was the maximum'

27 September 2023 at 16:29
Last update 27 September 2023 at 17:40

Mercedes tried two different strategies at the Japanese Grand Prix last weekend, with George Russell pitting only once. With Lewis Hamilton, the team completed a successful undercut on Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz. In the Mercedes debrief, the team looks back at the defensive line that Russell and Hamilton tried to form together.

Sainz saw that the trick he used in Singapore to win the race was used against him by the Mercedes drivers in Japan. Hamilton slowed slightly, which would give Russell more chance to defend against the Spaniard with DRS. Mercedes chief racing strategist Rosie Wait explained: "Realistically, even if we could have gotten one car ahead of one Ferrari, that represented a good result for us. We already had that with Lewis having undercut Sainz, so we needed to be careful not to compromise the gains we had already made."

'Defending against Sainz was too risky'

Wait says she would have liked to have had the option to pause and take a good look at the situation. Indeed, Wait says the Mercedes drivers could possibly have found a way to keep Sainz behind them at the first corner. Only that would have been very risky for the drivers in the other overtaking opportunities on the track.

Wait: "Given what we saw with how easily Piastri and Leclerc were able to get through George, the writing was really on the wall for him, and it was overwhelmingly likely that whatever we tried to do, he wasn’t going to be able to defend those positions. We did give it our best shot with the two cars, but ultimately, this is not a circuit where that works, and George was always destined to finish in P7, unfortunately."