Mercedes made the right call not to pit Sir Lewis Hamilton once the Safety Car was deployed at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, based on what the “rules suggested.”
That’s according to motorsports journalist Peter Windsor, who believes that race director Michael Masi called the Safety Car in sooner than he should have, as the FIA didn’t want to end the season finale behind the Safety Car.
Hamilton looked set to claim his eighth F1 crown after overtaking Max Verstappen at the start of the Abu Dhabi GP and appearing to have plenty of pace in hand over his championship rival.
However, a late crash for Nicholas Latifi resulted in the Safety Car being deployed, prompting a pit-stop for Verstappen.
Mercedes, meanwhile, ordered Hamilton to stay out as they feared they would lose track position if they pitted the seven-time world champion for fresh rubber.
And, with it looking likely that the race would end behind the Safety Car, this would cost Hamilton victory in Abu Dhabi and therefore the 2021 Drivers’ Championship.
However, Masi made the strange call to only allow the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to un-lap themselves, and we had one final lap of racing in the UAE capital, during which the Red Bull driver overtook the Briton.
Reflecting on what happened in Abu Dhabi, Windsor said Hamilton “probably” would have won the championship had Mercedes pitted him once the Safety Car was deployed.
“Had they [Mercedes/Hamilton] gone in for new tyres, then they probably would have won the championship,” he said in a video posted on his YouTube channel.
“But the reason they didn’t do that is because the rules suggested it was not worth doing it.
“There was no way in the world a Safety Car was going to clear that race and allow a one-lap race to be driven, so what was the point? They were going to finish it under Safety Car conditions and that’s the basis on which Mercedes took the decision not to bring Lewis in,” he explained.
Continuing, he noted that Mercedes also had to consider whether Verstappen would pit for fresh tyres if Hamilton made a late stop once the Safety Car came out.
“Of course there was the business of track position as well. Had Lewis gone in, would Max have stayed out and would the race have finished under normal Safety Car conditions, Max would have won the race.”
Windsor went on to suggest that Masi called in the Safety Car sooner than he should have, as he wanted the season finale to end under green flag conditions.
“So it’s a very difficult situation still to get your head around, because whichever way you cut it, ultimately it’s very easy to make a comment after the event now we know what happened, now we know that the FIA put the Safety Car in and allowed the race to restart really before they should have.
“It’s impossible for Mercedes to have anticipated that was going to happen,” Windsor concluded.