Toto Wolff says it is Mercedes’ job to accept anger from its drivers during a race, after Lewis Hamilton’s outburst in the Dutch Grand Prix.
Hamilton was frustrated to be left vulnerable at a late Safety Car restart, leading on older medium tires compared to Max Verstappen on the faster soft compound behind him.
Teammate George Russell had also switched to softs – a request the driver made himself – leading to Hamilton saying “I can’t believe you guys f****** screwed me, I can’t tell you how pissed I am,” as he slipped back from first to fourth.
“So the thinking that we had was that we had a medium that had five racing laps on plus track position, and we took that decision,” Wolff said. “I don’t think that on a par with the same tire we could have overtaken the Red Bull with the straight line speed. We’ve seen that with [Carlos] Sainz that we aren’t really able to pass him at the beginning, so that was the call.
“Every single day of my life I would rather risk everything for winning the race rather than cementing in second and third.
“You get emotional. I do too in the race and when you are the driver in the car, it just comes out of you and you can’t even stop it. We are the trash bin, the sick bag in the airplane and we are taking all of that because we need to. That is how it has always been in a relationship between frustrated driver and the pit wall.
“We have sat together, we discussed the race strategy and I think this morning we decided to take a risk. It really backfired for him but I think overall, the circumstances and having Max behind him, that was totally unpleasant but there are more positives to take and this is what we have also chatted about; the car is fast here.”
While Red Bull team principal Christian Horner questioned Mercedes’ decision to remove a hurdle from ahead of Verstappen by pitting Russell, Wolff says it was worth hedging the team’s bets.
“We just split the strategy. If we would have left both out on the same tire we would have had the blocker and the two cars in the front, but if the new tire was really much faster then both the cars may have been eaten up, also maybe by [Charles] Leclerc, and everyone else who came behind.
“So we split the strategy, kept track position and maybe the car is fast enough to do this rather than to take any other decision.
“I think it’s right (that Hamilton is angry). The pit wall and the strategist try to calculate probabilities and come up with best possible decision, and it’s more for the pit wall and us to say ‘we think this is what is happening and what we should do’.
“But it all came so quickly, so also for us it was so tremendously difficult to make the right judgement call and especially if you have two drivers competing against each other… We had it for ten years, one is going to be upset and the other is going to be happy and that’s these swings we need to balance out and just acknowledge that the frustration on one side is always big.”