Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes Ferrari might have been setting themselves upsetting themselves up for failure by starting the Hungarian Grand Prix on Mediums.
George Russell took an excellent pole position in qualifying as Carlos Sainz lined up second for the race ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc.
With rain beginning to fall at the start of the grand prix, Russell took a set of Softs for the start, as did Sir Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, who started seventh, 10th and 11th respectively after varying issues in qualifying.
The Ferraris, however, chose the yellow-walled tyre for the beginning of the afternoon, and it was a plan that looked as though it just might work.
Leclerc cleared Sainz in the first round of pit stops, before passing Russell on track to take the lead, setting himself up brilliantly for the remainder of the afternoon.
Verstappen has executed the undercut to pass Hamilton for position, and he was just behind Sainz when he stopped again for another set of Mediums.
The Dutchman had stopped several laps earlier than Leclerc, so the Monegasque had the residual grip – particularly as he was running in clean air – to go longer into the race and bolt on Softs for the end.
One would think this would put him in good stead to win the race, but the Scuderia made a blunder of seismic proportions.
They decided to immediately respond to Verstappen’s stop, but they did not have any more sets of Mediums available after using them in practice, so they put him onto the Hards.
The 24-year-old’s race unravelled from there, as he was passed by Verstappen, who went on to clear Russell and Sainz in the pit stops to win the race.
Leclerc was pitted for a third time for a set of Softs as he was forced down to P6, and Hamilton, who had mirrored Sainz’s strategy of going long on Mediums before sticking Softs on, passed the Spaniard.
He would then clear his team-mate for second, but Russell held off the threat of Sainz as Mercedes secured their second consecutive double podium.
It drew more attention to Ferrari’s strategists but Wolff, who himself has affirmed that there is a “no-blame culture” at Mercedes, thinks the criticism is perhaps a little harsh.
“I can’t comment because hitting out on a person is never right,” he told RacingNews365.com.
“I don’t know what the reasons were, why they decided to drop the Medium or not utilise the Soft at the start of the race, but I think that cost them the victory.
“Ferrari were fast, but they just couldn’t materialise it.”
The Austrian affirmed that it is easier to make decisions when you are behind, because that can force the leaders to make key decisions in the moment and, in Ferrari’s case, Verstappen’s stop ultimately caused them to capitulate.
“You have to take decisions that could potentially cost you during the race,” explained Wolff.
“Where Max was in the race, if you look at Red Bull’s decisions, they wouldn’t have probably made them if Leclerc was all around them.
“It’s certainly always more difficult to race at the front and get it right because you’re under so much spotlight when you get it wrong.”
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has since affirmed his full backing of his team members, and has insisted that no changes are needed.