Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff feels that Max Verstappen took a gamble by pitting early at the Hungarian Grand Prix, and it paid off.
Max Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton finished first and second respectively in Budapest after making their way up from further down the grid in 10th and seventh.
Verstappen encountered power issues during qualifying, while Hamilton’s rear wing refused to open, so they had work to do during Sunday’s race.
Both drivers carved their way through the field, before the Dutchman pitted for the first time onto Mediums.
Mercedes waited several laps to bring their driver in, so Verstappen cleared the seven-time world champion, and Wolff divulged that his team felt as though pitting that early was too big a risk.
“At that point they simply took a big risk, or they took the risk to undercut us and to go very early on the tyre,” he explained in conversation with Sky Sports F1.
“It wasn’t yet clear whether it was a one-stop or two-stop and for us it was just simply too early and they gambled, they took the risk, and at the end the tyre lives were extended more than we thought.”
George Russell was fighting with the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, losing the lead from pole to the Monegasque in the second stint before the Scuderia, strangely, called him in for a stop onto the Hards.
Russell pitted later for another set of Mediums, passing Leclerc again, while Hamilton went much longer on his second stint because he was using his tyres less than the 24-year-old, in the eyes of Wolff.
“First of all, one must say George had a great qualifying session with pole and drove a super solid race,” he explained.
“But he was always in that fight and therefore you’re utilising the tyres, you’re leaning on it a lot, and then he ran a little bit out of tyres in the second stint.”
Hamilton passed his team-mate late on after pitting for Softs, ending the race second as Russell settled for third ahead of Sainz, but it might have been victory for the 37-year-old had it not been for his DRS issues on Saturday.
“But where Lewis came from is unbelievable, he was a little bit in the shadow, nobody really looked at him where he came from, and suddenly he was banging in times quicker than the leaders,” explained Wolff.
“And I think in qualifying if we wouldn’t have failed the DRS yesterday, I think we would have had a fun fight at the front for victory.”
Mistakes are ill-afforded for Mercedes if they are to win races due to the sheer pace of Verstappen and Red Bull, so Wolff believes that lessons have been learned from this weekend despite a fantastic result.
“I think you need to acknowledge Max in the Red Bull is just simply, at the moment – I think also Charles with the Ferrari – ahead of everybody else, I don’t know how much today,” he added.
“And I think with Lewis and Budapest, that’s a success story, and I think we lost that race with him yesterday.”
However, overall, the team’s second consecutive double podium is a strong platform to build from.
“At least we have a result we can work with, we had a really bad Friday, so we know what not to do so we’ll do the opposite,” stated Wolff.
“But Spa is very different, so let’s not celebrate yet that we are there because we aren’t yet.”
As for Ferrari, Leclerc was forced to stop again after he had no pace on Hards, but his set of Softs did not switch on for him, so he finished sixth behind Sergio Perez.
Had the Scuderia left him out and gone onto Softs towards the end – as they did with Sainz – the story might well have been different.
The 24-year-old had used his two remaining sets of Mediums in the opening two stints of the race so, if Ferrari were going to respond to Verstappen’s second stop, the Hards were their only option.
“I think they had no option, they had only hard and soft left and for the soft it was too early, so only the hard,” affirmed Wolff.
“I think the mistake happened Friday, or Saturday, not to carry over a new medium.”
Following Ferrari’s latest nightmare, they find themselves just 30 points ahead of Mercedes in the fight for second in the Constructors’ Standings.