Lewis Hamilton has revealed he planned to “take a risk” strategically in his Austrian Grand Prix battle with Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas prior to the intervention of the Safety Car.
Hamilton had worked his way up to second in the first stint of Formula 1’s season-opener at Spielberg, passing Sergio Perez and Lando Norris, before profiting when Max Verstappen retired.
Hamilton halved Bottas’ seven-second lead when the Safety Car was deployed in the wake of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas suffering a brake failure.
Mercedes opted to double-stack its drivers for a tyre change, switching both from Softs to Hards, before its W11s developed gearbox issues.
Bottas went on to take victory while Hamilton finished second but was demoted to fourth due to a time penalty for clashing with Red Bull’s Alexander Albon.
“The stint was going very well and I think we planned – I don’t remember which lap the Safety Car came out but it was unfortunate for sure because I was closing down Valtteri during that period,” said Hamilton.
“It was just at the time when he was really starting to fall off the cliff with his tyres, and I could see the gain that I was having each lap.
“It was getting quite exciting because I needed to get him as close as possible but then the Safety Car came out and obviously that put a spanner in the works. But that’s racing.”
Explaining the decision to adopt a different approach to Bottas, Hamilton said: “Well the fact is here at this track, in order to have an opportunity to pass the car in front you always want to go for the opposite strategy.
“When you’re in a team like ours, the first car always gets the priority in the stop, and so if you both come out on the same tyre it’s pretty much … you need something like 0.8s advantage against the car ahead in order to have an opportunity at fighting with them.
“So I knew that on the same tyre I would most likely be finishing behind, but then obviously the Safety Car came out and that really messed with things because I was planning to try and extend my stint as long as I could, then stop for the opposite tyre and just take a risk.
“Ultimately when I’m behind that’s what I like doing, is taking a risk, but it didn’t work out that way and I don’t think it was a big issue. There were so many other things that came into play, so…”