SINGAPORE – Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has no regrets over his team’s strategy gamble at the Singapore Grand Prix, which ultimately saw George Russell throw away a podium when he crashed into the barriers on the last lap.
Mercedes’ strategy software was predicting a victory at times in the closing stages of the race after both Russell and Lewis Hamilton made an extra pit stop for fresh tyres on lap 44.
Russell pitted from second place and Hamilton from fourth, with the two cars rejoining the race in fourth and fifth.
With fresh tyres they were then able to chase the lead cars and closed in on Lando Norris in second place and Carlos Sainz in first in the final few laps.
Russell came close to passing Norris for second place, but on the final lap hit the wall at Turn 10 and retired.
“We tried to win and we didn’t,” Wolff said. “The positives are that I love the call from driver and strategy team to say ‘we’re going for it’. Worst case was second and fifth, best case we win — first and second — our planner showed that at times.
“But I’m sad for George, because he delivered a 99.9% fantastic weekend and a split-second lack of concentration clipped the wall and this happened, but I said to him I’d rather this happening now and the learning is there rather than when we race for a victory or championship this will be engraved in him, this mistake.
“Lewis had a difficult day yesterday and he rebounded, had lots of pace at the end, a deserved podium. So it’s bittersweet, but overall I’m happy about the performance, happy about where the car was all weekend, and I think we gave it our best shot.”
Wolff said Russell was pushing to the limit in the closing laps and believes his view of the wall, which juts out at the entry of Turn 10, was obscured by Norris, who also clipped the barrier ahead of him.
“We must not forget it’s George’s second year in a competitive car and he was willing, giving it all he had, to win the race.” Wolff said. “At that stage the only way of overtaking Norris and maybe Sainz was to not leave a millimetre on track, and Lando kissed the wall, and he was behind him and he hit it harder, so yeah that cost him the race, but if you push like this these things can happen.”
Hamilton secured third place for Mercedes, but Wolff said the performance of the car, on a weekend when championship leaders Red Bull were out of contention, was the biggest boost for the team.
“Yeah I think this is the positive that you say we’ve been really strong here, we could have won here, we could have finished first and second here on merit and that will energise us even more.
“On this particular track we were strong, so not everything is wrong, and you see on the planner P1 and P2 popping up at times and think it could have been an unbelievable day, and it’s not, but I’d rather fall back on the positives of this weekend like you said and go back home and say that was a good one.”