Mercedes has admitted they should have pitted Lewis Hamilton earlier as the track started to dry in Imola. The seven-time champion was running 11th before the first set of pit stops but lost positions as the team refused to gamble.
Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon’s earlier stops for slicks meant they came out ahead of the Mercedes man. Esteban Ocon’s unsafe release pushed Hamilton down to 14th and the Briton was stuck in a DRS train all afternoon.
It meant he was unable to make any progress on the midfield and finished 13th after Ocon’s five-second penalty was later awarded. Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said in ‘hindsight’ they should have pitted Hamilton earlier.
However, he explained that part of the decision was down to issues with generating tyre warm-up from their new car.
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Shovlin claimed the team were unable to gamble on tyre changes until they solved the ‘underlying problems’ with their car.
He said: “Why didn’t we stop Lewis a lap or two earlier. Well, with the benefit of hindsight we would have done.
“If you look at the issues though as to why we didn’t do that. There was a dialogue with Lewis but we had a car all weekend that was struggling with warm-up.
“Going out on slick tyres on a damp track was a very challenging situation. Really we need to understand why we’ve got this warm up problem. We know from previous races, we know from previous damp qualifying’s, those are conditions Lewis excels in. He’s very very good in those changing conditions.
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“There’s an underlying problem we’ve got in this car, it’s very difficult for us to generate temperature and we need to fix that before we get back into a situation where we can really gamble on those changing conditions.” The result leaves Hamilton down in seventh in the drivers’ standings and a massive 58 points behind championship leader Charles Leclerc.
It’s Hamilton’s second poor result of the season after a 10th place finish at the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix. Meanwhile, Mercedes rookie George Russell continues to enjoy a consistent start to the season with four successive top-five finishes.
It means Russell has almost doubled his team-mate’s points tally and is just 37 points behind Leclerc.