Hamilton’s fatal stop: Safety Car stalled Mercedes calculation

When a virtual safety-car phase was triggered at the Monaco GP after Max’s capital crash and the real safety car came on line shortly thereafter, the heads smoked at the Mercedes command stand.

The silver strategists feared that Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari would use this phase for a pit stop to have a potentially decisive advantage for the race with fresh tires. This was to prevent Mercedes and sought a solution. The answer seemed to be found: Order Lewis Hamilton to the box in order to anticipate the potential danger in red.

The cardinal error in the Mercedes bill was the assumption that Hamilton’s advance on Nico Rosberg and Vettel was big enough to stay ahead despite the additional stop. Growing! The WM leader came after Rosberg and Vettel on the track, according to stupid looking at the silver heads at the command stand from the laundry.

But how do strategists calculate in such cases at all whether or not to stop, and what could have led to that the smart-asses at Mercedes simply “billed themselves”?

Under normal racing conditions (dry track, no safety car) such calculations are relatively simple. The teams decide on the basis of previous races or races. by simulation, a delta time that a driver loses at a pit stop. One can imagine that two cars are still the same until the boxing entrance. While one stays out, the other comes in for a pit stop. The Delta Age indicates how far the second car is behind the first when it goes back on track. In Monaco, these are approximately 22,5 seconds including tire changes. In other words, the time you lose at a pit stop in the principality.

If you do not drive under normal conditions, e.g. in the rain or just during a safety car phase, the teams have to expect another, a smaller delta time. The reason: The car that stays on the track drives slower than it would under ideal conditions. The problem is when the lap time on the track varies, for example when the safety car driver drives at different speeds or when it rains harder. Then Delta time changes, too. Each prediction becomes more difficult and imprecise. With a professional team like Mercedes one should expect to be equipped for all eventualities and to have a fairly correct delta time.

Hamilton lost crucial seconds behind the safety car and at the stop

Not to forget, that nothing should go wrong at the stop, of course, the calculation of the command state should start. Hamilton’s time in the boxing alley was longer at the decisive stop 1,3 seconds than when he first visited the garage. If the tyres had been changed as quickly as the first time, he would probably have stayed before Vettel and probably also before Rosberg.

All this is still relatively easy to calculate. It is more difficult to determine the current lead of your own car on the tracker. In the worst case, the distance from the last pass is used. However, since this is naturally a round, the distances may have changed significantly by now, e.g. by a small slide or by rounds. More precisely, the calculation is made by updating the distances between the three sectors. However, there remains a degree of uncertainty about the real distances. p>

The best guide is given to the teams by using the GPS data of the current positions of all cars. Usually the teams receive this information from the FIA and Formula 1 Group in order to quickly detect accidents of other cars and to warn their own drivers against the danger point. But once the teams have the positions, they naturally try to use them elsewhere. Whether these data were available during the fatal Hamilton stop is unclear. There are different statements from different people. In general, however, Monaco is known to have problems with the GPS signal over and over again.

In the case of Hamilton, it seemed that the World Champion ran into the Safety Car immediately before stopping. It should be borne in mind that in the first two rounds of a safety-car phase, drivers must comply with a minimum window time indicated on the display, i.e. slower than usual. However, if they run on the Pace Car, they are not normally allowed to overtake it. However, as the Safety Car drives even slower than the minimum time shown on the display, you also lose time as soon as you get behind it.

This seemed to have happened to Hamilton just before turning into the box. It may be that Mercedes did not notice this additional time loss, or too late, and therefore did not include in the calculation whether it was possible to stop Hamilton without losing the leadership.

From the outside many unfortunate circumstances seem to have come together, which led to this later wrong decision. Why Mercedes on a route where overtaking is virtually impossible, Vettels Ferrari considered as so dangerous to even make the’safety stop’will probably remain the secret of the silver strategists.

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