Mercedes Formula 1 team boss Toto Wolff says the decision to leave Lewis Hamilton out on intermediates for the Hungarian Grand Prix restart was “absolutely the right thing to do” even with the benefit of hindsight.
After opening-lap incidents took out Hamilton’s main rivals for victory, Hamilton staying out after the post-red flag formation lap was a pivotal moment in the race, as all other cars peeled into the pits behind him to swap from intermediates to slicks.
Hamilton wound up pitting for slicks a lap after the surreal single-car start, and dropped to the back. He was audibly unhappy about how the situation had played out throughout the race, and said in parc ferme: “I mean, I was telling the team how the track was through the lap, but they’d said rain was coming when we got into the car, I thought they had other information.
“I saw everyone diving in… ah, anyways.”
Team boss Wolff, however, made it clear that he had no regrets about the call. He explained that the team believed at the time pitting could led to an inverse situation, with everyone else staying out and Hamilton ending up mired in traffic.
“To be honest, I think we did absolutely the right thing,” Wolff told Sky. “There is no one in the team that would’ve done otherwise.
“As the leading car, it’s always difficult to take the decision. And if you’re the only one pitting, then you come out last. And there is the difficulty of getting out of the pit stand, because everybody’s pitting.
“And it looked like we were a little bit lonely on the grid, and obviously it played against us.”
Wolff clarified that the team wasn’t expecting it to rain again by the time it had to make a decision, but rather was just caught out by how quickly the track dried.
“These things can happen. I stand absolutely behind the decision to stay out. And that’s why I’m fine. I think we could’ve gambled as the leading car and come in with also a disastrous outcome, and then if that would’ve happened people would’ve said that we have done a mistake, so that was the right decision.
“I think if just five cars out there that would’ve stayed there, we would’ve had a much better race [result]. But things happen, and at the end of the day, with karma… maybe we shouldn’t have taken full points today.”
Wolff’s “karma” comment is in reference to Hamilton’s team-mate Bottas causing a collision that eliminated one of the rival Red Bulls and damaged the other car.
It was a “small mistake”, according to Wolff, but he said he “completely understood” Red Bull’s anger and was keen to apologise.