Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff have disagreed over a disastrous late pit stop that allowed Max Verstappen to increase his championship lead.
Hamilton was one of a number of drivers who attempted to finish the race without stopping for fresh tyres, as the damp Istanbul Park circuit ripped apart the intermediate rubber.
The seven-time world champion had found his way back up the grid after a pre-race engine penalty had dropped him down from pole position to 11th.
Often the king of wet conditions, Hamilton jumped up the order as others stopped for new intermediate tyres, and was as high as third at one stage, just behind title rival Verstappen.
The Mercedes pit wall repeatedly called for Hamilton to stop with 16 laps to go, but trusted their driver’s better judgement as he looked like he may keep up his pace.
When Hamilton was asked to pit he asked, “Why?” With his engineer Pete Bonnington saying, “New inter[mediate] is the way to go.”
“I don’t think it is man, it feels like we should stay out man, I mean I’m sliding around but it feels ok so far,” Hamilton replied, with the team allowing him to continue.
But with eight laps remaining, leader Charles LeClerc was forced to make his first stop as he began losing positions, and Hamilton soon had to follow suit.
The Brit ended up dropping down to fifth, and was unable to gain on the cars ahead as the wet condition tyres had proved they needed to recover from a graining period before reaching their optimum speed.
A similar event occurred last time out at the Russian Grand Prix, when Hamilton eventually folded to Mercedes calls, and a late stop allowed him to steal the win from Lando Norris.
But that wasn’t the case this time, with neither driver nor team taking the correct initiative, leaving Hamilton frustrated over team radio.
“F*** man why did you give up that space?” Hamilton said when he realised he was in fifth.
“We shouldn’t have come in man, massive graining man, I told you!
“Leave it alone man!”
The race was won by Mercedes teammate Valterri Bottas from the Red Bull pair of Verstappen and Perez, and Hamilton headed straight for his trailer with his head down.
Hamilton’s two-point championship lead over Verstappen has switched to six points in the Dutchman’s favour, and came at a circuit where Mercedes clearly had the fastest car.
Hamilton quickly emerged into the media pen, revealing the earlier stop was probably the right call, but the later one was not.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was the only driver to finish the race without stopping, and took an admirable 10th place despite his tyres clearly ending in shreds.
But Hamilton took the result as evidence that he could have stayed out.
“Well Ocon’s [tyres] did [last] I heard so I assume they probably could,” Hamilton said.
“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, [after putting on new tyres] I was struggling, had low grip, not really sure why, then all of a sudden I had not such bad pace but I was losing performance to the guys behind.
“Probably in hindsight I should have stayed out or come in much earlier, because if you come in with eight laps to go you don’t have time to go through the graining phase of that [intermediate] tyre on a drying track, so then I went through this whole sliding phase and nearly lost more positions, so yeah, a bit frustrating but it is what it is.”
Hamilton’s boss Toto Wolff agreed with his driver that the earlier stop would have been the right call, but disagreed about staying out once they had missed their chance.
“It’s quite interesting because the intermediate obviously looked really scary but we thought that we could maybe hang out there and finish third without stopping, or if a dry line appears maybe even go onto a soft tyre until the end.” Wolff said.
“So we balanced between pitting, taking [it] very conservative, fighting with LeClerc and Perez on the track for P3, or taking a little bit of a gamble and either winning, or finishing third.
“Then we saw LeClerc dropping off and Lewis started dropping off and it was clear we wouldn’t make it to the end.”
Hamilton clearly felt he could have lasted without stopping, to take home third, or at least fourth place.
Wolff, though, thinks if the stop didn’t come, Hamilton would have been lucky to survive like Ocon did.
“In the car he didn’t see how much he was dropping off in lap time,” Wolff said. “Also he didn’t see LeClerc dropping off and it was clear that if he had stayed out he would have lost against [Pierre] Gasly in any case.
“I think in the car it still felt good, but he was one and a half seconds off the pace and would have lost the position.
“The correct call probably would have been taking it very conservative and pitting when everyone else pitted for the intermediate, coming out behind Perez, probably behind LeClerc and then fighting with them on track for P3, that probably would have been correct but this is all in hindsight after the race.”