Mercedes: Ocon’s fall proved risk of keeping Hamilton out to the end
After seeing most of the frontrunning drivers pit with around 20 laps to go for a fresh set of intermediate tyres, Mercedes opted to keep Hamilton out as he felt his tyres were still in good enough shape.
The team considered keeping Hamilton out all the way to the end of the race, only to ultimately pit him with eight laps remaining after he started losing time to the cars chasing him.
Hamilton had risen to third place before pitting, but lost places to Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc after making the switch. He came under late pressure from Pierre Gasly for fifth place as he struggled with graining.
Hamilton told Mercedes over the radio that he “shouldn’t have come in” and was frustrated after losing the lead of the drivers’ championship to Max Verstappen.
The only driver to complete the race without pitting was Esteban Ocon, who finished 10th for Alpine. But he conceded his tyres were “quite damaged” by the end, and believed he would have sustained a puncture had the race lasted one lap longer.
Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin explained that the drop-off in Ocon’s lap times towards the end of the race proved how risky it would have been to keep Hamilton out.
“If you look at Esteban, he got overtaken by Lance [Stroll] about five or six laps from the end, and he finished 17 seconds behind him,” Shovlin said.
“That’s how quickly you fall off. That’s what is in our mind, it’s not just if we can keep going at this pace.
“Esteban lost a further two seconds in that short run to the finish, and that’s where it goes wrong.
“We’ll go through it and check, but we’re fairly certain we would have lost those two places, if not been at risk from more.”
Ocon’s times nosedived towards the end of the race as he lost more than three seconds per lap to Stroll ahead. Antonio Giovinazzi finished narrowly behind Ocon in 11th, and felt he needed one more lap to snatch a point from the Alpine driver.
Hamilton’s times on worn intermediates were comparable to those who had pitted for a while, but once they were through the graining phase, the lap time loss forced Mercedes to act.
“I think 10 or 11 laps to the end, or 12 laps to the end, we thought that his laps times were actually quite strong,” said Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff.
“They were like Perez behind him, 34.6s, 34.7s. And then suddenly it started to drop off.
“When Perez brought his intermediate into the window and went through the graining phase, we were losing 1.5 seconds or 2 seconds per lap, and it was clear that we were going to lose that position, probably [also to] Leclerc, and also Gasly.”
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October 11, 2021 at 03:56PM