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Mercedes conducts review after mistakes at Malaysian GP

March 29, 2015

SEPANG, Malaysia (AP) — It’s rare to see a Formula One podium these days without a Mercedes driver standing on top, and it’s even rarer to have the team conducting arguments in public over the strategic errors which led to the defeat by Ferrari.

The team was chiefly undone on Sunday by the Malaysian heat which degraded its tires more quickly than those on the Ferrari cars. However, it was also left to rue two bad decisions: pitting behind the safety car while Sebastian Vettel stayed out, and having only hard tires available for Lewis Hamilton in the final stint of the race instead of the quicker medium-compound rubber.

Team principal Toto Wolff was contrite after the race, describing the grand prix as “the wakeup call that we needed.”

“It is going to make us work harder and concentrate even more,” Wolff said.

“It’s easy to be clever after the race, looking at things we could have done better and there are certainly plenty of points that could have been optimized. But we take these decisions together as a team and this is the moment to stay calm, do our analysis and learn what we can improve for next time. It was a complicated race for the team to read — and for the drivers, too.”

It was not too complicated for Hamilton, who was clear in his mind that he needed the medium-compound tire for the closing laps. Soon after being fitted with another set of the hard tires, he radioed back: “This is the wrong tire, man.”

He was told in reply that the only set of medium tires left were from Friday’s practice, which the team had unwisely and unnecessarily used.

After further confusing Hamilton by mistakenly playing him some team radio communication mulling over another stop, the last straw came when he was being advised of the strategy for catching the Ferrari ahead.

“Man! Don’t talk to me during corners! I nearly went off,” Hamilton immediately shouted back.

While the inquest will continue into why the team pitted behind the safety car, the verdict was already in: racing director Paddy Lowe said the decision was wrong.

“With hindsight, the advantage this gave to Ferrari on their two-stop strategy, and the time we lost in traffic in the first laps after the safety car, left us with a gap to Sebastian that proved too much of a challenge for us to recover,” Lowe said.

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