Lewis Hamilton says the deployment of the Safety Car made no difference to the outcome of the British Grand Prix, as he was already committed to a one-stop strategy and would therefore have jumped team-mate Valterri Bottas anyway.
Hamilton tried to wrestle away the lead of the race from Bottas early on but had to play second fiddle, with the Finn holding on to his advantage.
Bottas stopped on lap 16 of 52 and took on another set of Medium tyres, outlining to his rivals that he would need to make a second stop later in the race.
Hamilton extended his first stint and came in four laps later when the Safety Car was deployed in the wake of Antonio Giovinazzi’s spin.
Hamilton took on Hard tyres while the reduced impact of the pit lane time loss meant he emerged in front of Bottas.
Hamilton stayed out for the remainder of the race while Bottas, having only run the Medium tyres, came in for a set of Softs in the closing stages.
“I was going to do a one-stop and he was on a two, so it wouldn’t have made any difference, the Safety Car, wouldn’t have made a difference,” said Hamilton.
“When he pitted on lap 16 my plan was to offset as much as I could so I think I went four laps or something and probably could have done another lap or two.
“At the time he was not catching me, which he should have been, but I was keeping the gap the same. I think he came out of the pits seven-tenths inside my window, so I would have pitted and he would be seven-tenths ahead, then it came to one [second], one-and-a-half, stayed around one-and-a-half to two.
“If I did another lap maybe [it would have been] two-and-a-half and I would have come out on my fresh Hards and I could have just sat behind him if I wanted to and he would have had to pit, so would still have had that 21-second gap. So it didn’t really make a difference.”
Hamilton went on to explain that his strategy was a “difficult call” on account of the lack of data available from the Hard tyre, and reckons his opponents would have been surprised by his approach.
“They [the strategists] give us as much information as they can but ultimately I’ve got to figure out how I’ve got to get past this guy [Bottas],” said Hamilton.
“If I can’t pass him on the track how am I going to out-do him on pace, tyre life, all these kinds of things.
“I already in the morning decided going into the race that I was going to do a Hard tyre on my second stint but it was a really difficult call for everyone as we only had one Hard tyre, we didn’t test it in the long runs, I think only one or two teams tested it, so it was a bit of an unknown how off pace you’d be.
“I was supposed to start the race and save the tyres and I went flat out from the beginning which was definitely not expected from anyone and Valtteri definitely did not expect it.
“The long runs, everyone else’s tyres were degrading massively and I had the best long run on Friday than everyone.
“So I’m sure everyone would have seen my data and been looking at how I saved the tyres and tried to do the same, and I just did the opposite!
“I just went for it and risked it all basically trying to get past. We had a great, great battle which is awesome, I hope we get to have more like that.”
Hamilton leads Bottas in the Drivers’ Championship by 39 points.