Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says a radio communication failure led to the tyre mix-up that wrecked the team’s prospects at Formula 1’s Sakhir Grand Prix.
George Russell controlled proceedings up front on his first outing for the team, ahead of Valtteri Bottas, and both were called in when the Safety Car was deployed for Jack Aitken’s crash.
However Mercedes fitted a set of Medium tyres assigned to Bottas onto Russell’s car and had to call him in once more on the next lap, to fit his assigned batch, dropping him to fifth.
Compounding the issue was that Bottas could not take on his own tyres – for at that moment they were on Russell’s car – and had to remain on the used Hards.
“When we call the pit crews out what happens is they get a call on the radios and they bring the right tyres out,” explained Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
“On George’s side, they didn’t hear the pit call so we had a radio department that didn’t function, then the wrong guys with the wrong tyres came out.
“We knew immediately when Valtteri didn’t have his tyres, we knew that Valtteri’s tyres were on George’s car.
“So we fitted Valtteri’s old Hard tyres that we had just taken off and we knew we needed to pit George again.”
Russell overhauled Bottas, Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon but his pursuit of race leader Sergio Perez was ruined when he suffered a slow puncture and had to pit again.
“The slow puncture probably came from [the fact] he had to run off the line so many times to do the overtakes,” said Wolff.
“I feel for George. We didn’t want to set expectations high and he over-delivered, and over-delivered, and over-delivered.”
Russell recovered to take ninth, as well as the fastest lap, while Bottas slipped to eighth as he struggled on worn tyres.