Hamilton rues pit call but Mercedes boss Wolff backs team decision

By Sports Desk October 10, 2021

Lewis Hamilton cut a frustrated figure over Mercedes' decision to pull him in for a pit stop late in the Turkish Grand Prix.

Hamilton seemed determined to finish the race in the rain in Istanbul on the same set of tyres, turning down several calls for him to pit.

Finally, on the 51st lap out of 58, Hamilton – who at the time was in third place having started 11th on the grid due to the 10-place penalty he took into the weekend for changing engine – heeded his team's call to come in to switch onto intermediate tyres.

Yet as the seven-time world champion came back out, he had fallen to fifth place, much to his annoyance.

"Why did you give up that place?" Hamilton questioned over the radio, as he was forced to hold off Pierre Gasly to finish fifth, behind Charles Leclerc, Red Bull duo Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who cruised to his first race victory of 2021.

Esteban Ocon finished within the top 10 having not changed tyres at all, and Hamilton was in a prickly mood when interviewed by Sky Sports.

Asked if he was aware he would drop down two places when he went into the pits, Hamilton said: "I didn't know at that time, I could probably have assumed that I would.

"The guys were only 15 seconds behind, it's a 24-second pit stop so I knew that I'd lose perhaps one."

Of the initial tyres potentially lasting the whole race, Hamilton added: "Ocon's did I heard so I assume they probably could.

"The tyres are bald so you don't know how far they're going to go so there's definitely the worry of the life of the tyre but also I wasn't really that fast at the end there.

"I was struggling, had little grip, not really sure why. Then all of a sudden I'd have not such a bad pace but I was losing performance to the guys behind."

Hamilton acknowledged he may have made an error not coming in for a pit earlier in the race, when Mercedes initially advised, but he believes the wrong call was made to switch so late.

"In hindsight I should have either stayed out or come in much earlier," he said. "When you come in with eight laps to go you don't have time to go through the draining phase of that medium tyre on a drying track.

"So I went through this whole sliding change where I nearly lost more positions. A bit frustrated but it is what it is. 

"It felt good to be in third and I thought if I could just hold onto this it's a great result from 11th. Fifth is worse, but it could be worse."

There was an eight-point swing in the championship title race, with Verstappen now six ahead of Hamilton heading into the United States Grand Prix in two weeks' time.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, however, insisted the correct call was made.

"[Pitting earlier] would have been better than what we ended up with. But it was measured and in the car, he didn't see how much he was dropping off. It was clear that had he stayed out then he would have lost out to Gasly," he told Sky Sports.

"The correct call would probably have been taking it very conservative and pitting when everybody else pitted for the inters, coming out behind Perez and Leclerc and fighting with them for P3. That was probably correct, but that is only with hindsight."

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