Mercedes: Safer for Hamilton to mimic Rosberg’s strategy

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Mercedes has defended its decision to reject Lewis Hamilton’s request for an alternative strategy during Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, believing that allowing him to make his own call could have cost him second place at Interlagos.

Hamilton spent the majority of the race tailing Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, but was unable to get close enough to attempt an overtake.

Hamilton asked the Mercedes pit wall following his first stop if there were any alternative strategies that he could run, only to be told that he was to stick to the original plan.

Mercedes did eventually move both Rosberg and Hamilton from a two-stop strategy onto a three-stopper, bringing in the latter just one lap later for each tire change.

Speaking after the race, Mercedes team chiefs Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe defended the decision to make Hamilton follow Rosberg’s strategy due to the threat of Sebastian Vettel in third. The Ferrari driver finished just 6.5 seconds behind Hamilton at the end of the race.

“In the second stint [Hamilton] asked about an alternative strategy, but the only option was to convert to three stops which was ten seconds slower in terms of overall race time and would have put his second place at risk to Vettel,” Wolff explained.

“Then, the situation changed in our favour when Vettel converted to a three-stop strategy, which allowed us to do the same and control any threat from behind to the end of the race.”

Lowe said that Mercedes would always stick to its policy of letting its drivers race on track and not giving strategic preference to either Hamilton or Rosberg if it risks track position.

“There was a point in the second stint when Lewis asked if anything could be done about a different strategy, but the only alternative at that point was the slower three-stopper,” Lowe said.

“With others looking like they were two-stopping, we didn’t want to risk handing second place to Ferrari.

“Our policy is to let our drivers race and also to allow them to explore viable alternative strategies, as we have shown in the past – but we don’t let them pursue a bad alternative strategy at any cost.”