F1: We really let Lewis Hamilton down in Monaco but he’ll bounce back quickly, says Mercedes chief Toto Wolff

Mercedes' decision to pit Hamilton for a needless second stop cost him certain victory

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The Independent Online

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff has apologised again to Lewis Hamilton for the team’s unfathomable decision to pit him near the end of Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.

Wolff also promised an intensive investigation into what went wrong with a strategy system which has normally been foolproof.

Hamilton had dominated the race but ultimately saw it gifted to team-mate Nico Rosberg and he dropped to third as Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel also beat him home. However, Wolff said he expected Hamilton to bounce back.

“Fundamentally, our system went wrong,” Wolff admitted. “It has won us many races in the past but there is no doubt that we had a problem with our data tools.”

He added that he did not expect Hamilton to overreact to the issue, saying: “He has really matured and come out as a leader. It’s spectacular and I am happy to see him come out so strong. He’s grown together with the team, through the ups and downs. He is a key part of the team and the decision-making process and he inspires them.

“He processes these things much quicker now. It no longer takes him days but hours to get over things.”

Hamilton said that he had pitted believing that both Rosberg and Vettel must already have done so, since he caught a glimpse on a giant video screen of the Mercedes crew standing out on the pit apron and assumed that the team was covering him against the threat of his rivals being able to attack on fresher tyres over the final laps.

“I saw a screen and it looked like the team was out in the pits,” said the reigning world champion. “I thought the guys behind were pitting, so when the team said stay out, I said my tyres were dropping temperature. I was assuming that these guys would be on options [the softer tyres] and I would be on the harder tyre, so they said to pit. I did that and came in thinking with full confidence the others had done the same.”

Wolff also said that Hamilton’s comment had influenced their decision, but he was doomed once Ferrari did not pit Vettel.

Meanwhile, the sport’s governing body, the FIA, said that race director Charlie Whiting acted correctly in bringing out the real safety car within a lap of the announcement on the 64th of the virtual safety car. The latter obliges drivers to hit a pre-agreed speed without being allowed to close gaps between themselves, thus preserving established track advantages; under the former, cars can bunch up.

Wolff said: “That certainly didn’t help our situation.” But the FIA said that Whiting made the decision once it was clear the medical car was required at the scene of Max Verstappen’s accident in the first corner and needed the protection of a full safety car intervention.

The FIA also countered Wolff’s suggestion that clear GPS was not available around the entire track at Monaco and that this had been was one of the causes of the confusion within the Mercedes garage.

The Ferrari team principal, Maurizio Arrivabene, has hit back at Bernie Ecclestone after the Formula One chief executive suggested he could do more for the sport.

Ecclestone, 84, told the official formula1.com website at the weekend that team heads needed to be more prominent. When it was put to him that Arrivabene was “quite a character”, Ecclestone replied: “But only for himself and not for Formula One.”

Arrivabene, a marketing man who took over his role last November, responded by saying his responsibilities were to Ferrari.

“With all due respect, I don’t have to respond to Bernie for what I do, but rather to Mr Marchionne,” said the Italian, referring to the Ferrari chairman and Fiat Chrysler chief executive. “If Bernie has doubts about my way of doing things, he should ask the team.”