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Mercedes F1's Strategy Hamilton Yields to Sainz

Allison Decodes FIA’s Cryptic Decision on Hamilton

03/07/2024

Mercedes F1’s tactical move and FIA’s mysterious response illuminated by Allison, spotlighting the nuanced race strategies.

At the first turn of the Austrian Grand Prix, Carlos Sainz forced Lewis Hamilton off the track, with the Mercedes F1 driver managing to stay ahead of his rival as they exited the turn. James Allison, Technical Director of the Brackley team, discusses their swift consideration to relinquish the position.

“It was a matter of judgement,” Allison stated. “We all saw the start of the race. We observed the minor clash between Lewis and Carlos, with Lewis being pushed off the track yet remaining fast and ahead of Carlos.”

“Immediately, the question that arises in our minds and in Lewis’s is this: was this position gained by leaving the track? Did I gain an advantage off-track? You know deep down that you sometimes get a bit more leniency from the stewards at the first turn of the first lap. But it’s not something you can rely on.”

Mercedes is aware that the stewards might impose a penalty, and the team consulted the FIA, which now no longer advises teams on whether to relinquish positions. Seeing the incident noted by the stewards, the team opted for caution.

“You know the consequences of not giving up the position if the stewards decide against you are worse than if you just relinquish it. So, we did what we always do, which is to contact the FIA to ask if this seemed a bit too much.”

“They did what they always do, remain as inscrutable as the Sphinx and say, ‘It’s up to you to decide, you have to form your own opinion.’ The more we thought about it, the more it seemed we probably wouldn’t get away with it.”

“While we were pondering, we saw a message appear indicating that the incident was under investigation. What we were fairly certain of was that the balance of risks urged us to relinquish the spot.”

“So, we asked Lewis to give up the position. He was aware of the situation, he gave up the position without a word, he didn’t even seem to argue over the radio because he understands the balance of risks too.”

“Clearly the Right Thing to Do”

Allison believes Hamilton would have been penalized had he not relinquished his position: “We are glad we did it, because the stewards then made a decision that clearly indicated that had we taken our chances, we would have faced a penalty.”

Hamilton’s race eventually proved challenging, with another penalty and time lost behind Sainz, and this penalty would not have changed that, but Allison is convinced that it was important to do so at that moment in the race.

“Yielding that position to Carlos, a position we hadn’t legitimately gained at the start, cost us a second or so. Therefore, an additional nine seconds of penalties to serve, which could have had a significant impact later in the race.

“As things turned out with some of the damage to the floor of Lewis’s car, and the penalty he received for crossing the white line at the pit entry, if he had served it, it wouldn’t have made much difference.”

“But at the start of the race, when everything was still possible, it was clearly the right thing to do, to take the risk of giving back the position to Carlos, not to incur the wrath of the stewards, not to receive a 10-second penalty and to fight from that point on.”

Mercedes F1's Strategy Hamilton Yields to Sainz

Mercedes F1’s Strategy: Hamilton Yields to Sainz. Mercedes F1’s Strategy: Hamilton Yields to Sainz

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