Lewis Hamilton demanded answers from his Mercedes team after they switched his strategy, seemingly allowing teammate Valtteri Bottas to take victory at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Bottas was initially able to take the lead after Sebastian Vettel narrowly avoided a penalty for a jump-start, after moving shortly before the lights went out.
Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari collided with Red Bull's Max Verstappen at the first corner, leaving him needing to pit early for a new wing, leaving the two Mercedes and Vettel’s Ferrari in the challenge for the lead with Bottas able to create a gap between himself and the German.
With Bottas and Vettel both being committed to two-stop strategies, it seemed as though Hamilton would have a great chance of challenging for the win on a one-stop plan, with Mercedes not stopping the Brit until his teammate was underneath his rear wing on fresher medium tyres.
Mercedes then appeared to decide against Hamilton's original strategy due to high levels of degradation on his medium tyres, despite the multiple world champion maintaining an impressive gap on his teammate on fresher rubber.
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The extra stop for Hamilton to soft tyres ultimately cost him the chance to challenge for the win, but did end in a sixth consecutive Constructors' Championship and Drivers' Championship double with only Bottas now able to challenge Lewis for the championship.
Despite the fresh soft tyres at the end, Hamilton was unable to overtake Vettel, but he did post the fastest lap, gaining himself and his team an extra point in the process.
In an exchange on team radio between Hamilton and his race engineer Pete Bonington, Hamilton questioned the strategy he was placed on and demanded answers after the race.
PB: “So you’re currently P3. Vettel 10 seconds ahead. Deg looks very high, so one stop will be a struggle. Let’s chase Vettel down.”
LH: “Valtteri how far?”
PB: “Valtteri’s nearly got a full put stop.”
LH: “How have I lost that much time?”
PB: “Deg is much higher, deg is much higher. And we lost time behind Vettel.”
LH: “I’m out of the race now. If deg is that massive why didn’t you give me hard tyres? Can you guys explain a bit please. I’m basically out of the race with a pit stop behind.”
PB: “So Vettel is guaranteed a two-stop, so we can see how this comes to us.”
Hamilton was not happy with Bonington and the Mercedes strategy call as he clearly felt he would of been in a position to fight for a race win on the harder tyres.
Despite this, however, he is within touching distance of winning a sixth drivers' world title, which would leave him one short of equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of seven.News Now - Sport News