Hamilton wouldn’t have made a second pit stop in Russell’s position · RaceFans

Lewis Hamilton isn’t convinced his team mate made the right call by pitting from second place during a Virtual Safety Car period in the Singapore Grand Prix.

George Russell was running second behind eventual winner Carlos Sainz Jnr when a VSC was triggered in response to Esteban Ocon’s car coming to a stop. Mercedes brought both their drivers into the pits to make an extra tyre change, switching them to fresh medium compound tyres in a bid to chase down and pass the leaders.

The gamble did not fully pay off for Mercedes. Russell only made it as far as third before crashing out on the final lap. Hamilton, who inherited his third place, felt the team’s decision was justified but wasn’t convinced Russell should have given up second place to make his extra pit stop.

“We needed to take the risk, have a shot at trying to get past some of these guys and go for the win,” he said. “I think we had really good pace, I think the team did a great job.

“I don’t know, I think for George who was in second at the time, maybe if I was in his position, I probably would have stayed out and at least kept the McLaren behind. But we gave it a shot and it was really fun to be hunting these guys down.”

However Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was certain that seizing the opportunity to bring both drivers into the pits was the correct decision.

“It was absolutely the right call. We would have finished P2, P5, maybe P2, P4 and we wanted to win the race. So we took the risk and every day of the week I would do it again.”

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Wolff said the team pay close attention to what is theoretically the best strategy and try to balance that against the reality of the race situation. The team were fully behind the decision to pit both drivers.

“It’s algorithms and it’s probabilities in the background,” he said. “There’s mathematicians and scientists and strategists at work to come up with the best solutions. And then there is more simple racer minds that are trying to find the best compromise.

“In that case, there was a lot of debate beforehand when to put the car in the Safety Car window or Virtual Safety Car window. But we did it and then it was deployed and we were all behind it.”

Hamilton was out qualified by his team mate in Singapore and spent the race behind him until the final lap. He sympathised with Russell over his mistake.

“We’re all trying to be millimetre-perfect out there and it’s very, very easy to make mistakes. It’s very easy for any of us to have been in the position that George was in.

“He’s been driving phenomenally all weekend so it was really unfortunate for him on the last lap to finish that way. But he continues to grow, he’s continuing to improve. I know that he’s going to keep getting stronger and faster, and if there’s any way I can help, I will be a part of that naturally over the next couple of years.”

The veteran of 325 F1 races pointed out that even with his experience he still makes occasional errors. “I have a lot of experience. I’ve been here a long time. Putting together a race is not that easy, but the race is where I’m most comfortable on track. I think it’s just [about] keeping your head down.

“But if you look at last year for example, I made a mistake in turn seven and went off and crashed into the wall. So it can happen to any one of us. It’s just one of those things.”

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2023 Singapore Grand Prix

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