Mercedes’ Andrew Shovlin admits that Lewis Hamilton’s pit strategy in the Qatar Grand Prix was a ‘copy’ of what Max Verstappen was doing.
With Hamilton leading the race from the start and Verstappen behind in second, the Silver Arrows knew that the Red Bull driver’s main chance of getting ahead would come from potentially using the undercut during the pit-stops.
However, Mercedes were able to avoid this by bringing Hamilton straight in, a strategy that Shovlin – the team’s Trackside Engineering Director – says is completely normal during a championship battle like the one currently playing out.
When asked in a Mercedes debrief video whether Hamilton’s pit strategy was solely an answer to Verstappen, Shovlin explained: “Well, yes it was.
“This is quite normal, when you get into a championship battle. If you are controlling a race, you are out front, you’ve built a gap and Lewis was very, very clear of any risk of undercut.
“The best thing you can do if you want to finish ahead of Max is just copy what he does one or two laps later.
“What you don’t want to do is to be on a completely different part of the track, [or on] a completely different strategy, because [if there is] an unfortunate Safety Car, or maybe if the tyre degradation doesn’t pan out as you expect, you could end up losing that advantage.
“If you see Max leading any of the remaining races, I think they will be doing a very similar thing.”
No stop for fastest lap
Verstappen might not have been able to catch Hamilton for the lead of the race but the Dutchman did make a late pit-stop in order to claim an extra point for setting the fastest lap.
Shovlin has detailed why Mercedes did not attempt this with Hamilton.
“Red Bull deliberately timed it so that from their stop, all that Max is able to do is an out lap and a flying lap so he can then take that fastest lap which he actually held anyway from the previous stint,” Shovlin said.
“With Lewis, if we had pitted after Max had pitted, all we would have been able to do was the out lap and that obviously doesn’t count for fastest lap.
“So it’s quite normal that you leave it for the penultimate lap, because when you do stop you open up the window for the race leader, and if you do it on the penultimate lap it means that they have no opportunity to actually set a proper lap time.”
Following Hamilton’s victory in the Qatar Grand Prix, his deficit to Verstappen in the World Championship standings is now down to just eight points with two races remaining.
Watch the Mercedes debrief from Qatar below!