Mercedes ‘asking for trouble’ with Hamilton call as Wolff questioned

Lewis Hamilton on difficult season for Mercedes in November

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Mercedes chiefs have been questioned by former Williams team manager Peter Windsor for sending Lewis Hamilton out on hard-compound tyres at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Toto Wolff congratulated Hamilton on a positive day’s work after taking the chequered flag, although not everyone is sure that the Brit will see it that way.

With the Silver Arrows still lacking in pace compared to many of their competitors, Hamilton started seventh on the grid for Sunday’s race. Contrary to most of his rivals, Mercedes took the decision to start him on hard tyres. 

The plan was supposedly to go long during the first stint in an effort to make up places, but it was foiled by a Safety Car that bunched up the pack and brought about an opportunity for cheap pit-stops. 

Windsor believes that the medium-compound tyres were a better choice regardless, adding that Mercedes bosses were ‘asking for trouble’ by going against the grain. 

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“The medium was a really good race tyre in Saudi Arabia and to be on anything other than that at the start of the race was asking for trouble,” he explained on his YouTube channel. “Toto was on the radio afterwards telling Lewis that it was a good drive, and of course it was a good drive, but it wasn’t the sort of drive that Hamilton will want to be thinking about on his flight home.

“He doesn’t want to be passed by Max Verstappen as if he’s going backwards. He doesn’t want to be racing Haas and Alpha Tauri. In the end, he got beaten by George [Russell], which is probably the worst aspect of the weekend. Not a good one for Lewis.”

Hamilton himself bemoaned his set-up in Jeddah, with team-mate Russell showing greater pace over the course of the weekend and taking P4 on race day. “My set-up this weekend has been the biggest issue I’ve faced. I got it wrong for qualifying and it wasn’t good in the race either, so I struggled today,” said the seven-time world champion. 

“We were trying to go long on the hard tyre, but the Safety Car came out, so I had to pit. We just about managed to make the medium work, but it was a long second stint.”

Mercedes boss Wolff will be keen to see a quick turnaround in fortunes when Australia hosts the season’s next Grand Prix. Hamilton is rumoured to be ‘thinking hard’ about his future as he creeps towards the end of his Silver Arrows contract. 

Red Bull appear untouchable in 2023, having notched successive one-twos to kick off the season, while Aston Martin are the only other team to have notched a podium thus far, leaving Hamilton’s chances of notching an eighth world title looking bleak.

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