Lewis Hamilton may have finished third in the Hungarian Grand Prix but he had to battle his way back to the podium positions from last place, as he was the only driver not to pit for dry tyres on the restart after an early red flag, a decision which dropped him to the very back of the field. But after the race, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff insisted it was the right call to make at the time.
The Hungarian GP began in wet conditions with Valtteri Bottas’s ill-judged start leading to a collision that saw three drivers knocked out of the race, with two others also crashing out. During the red flag stoppage, conditions began to dry and as the field turned around the circuit on the formation lap before the restart, only Hamilton stayed out on intermediates, leading to the bizarre sight of the Mercedes as the only car on the grid as the lights went out to restart the race (as you can see in the video above).
A lap later he pitted for slicks, but that left eventual winner Esteban Ocon in the lead of the race. After the Grand Prix, Wolff said he stood by that strategy call.
“To be honest, I think we did absolutely the right thing,” said Wolff after the race. “There’s no one in the team that would have done otherwise. As a leading car it’s always difficult to take the decision and if you’re the only one pitting then you come out last and there is the difficulty of getting out of the pit stand because everybody’s pitting, and… obviously, it played against us.
“These things can happen – I stand absolutely behind the decision to stay out – and that’s why I’m fine,” continued the Mercedes chief. “I think we could have gambled as a leading car and come in also with a disastrous outcome and if that happened people would have also said that we had [made] a mistake. That was the right decision.”
2021 Hungarian Grand Prix: Hamilton goes from P1 to last as Ocon takes race lead
Hamilton finished third after a memorable skirmish with Fernando Alonso for P4 before he attacked Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz for the final podium spot on Lap 64, and after the race the Briton admitted that he didn’t “really understand” why Mercedes left him out on intermediate tyres for the Lap 4 resumption.
“We all started on those inters… and through the formation lap I was just giving the team information. I mean, it was dry through all the corners and I kept telling them ‘it’s dry, dry, dry, dry’ but they said just to stay out.