This season, Mercedes has often shown that it knows how to make the difference on the track thanks also to the excellent strategies processed at the pit wall. In Austin, the Brackley team managed to sign a splendid double by completely differentiating the race of its two drivers, with Valtteri Bottas opting for two stops, while Lewis Hamilton remained on the track, making only one pit stop. The ‘magician’ of the Stuttgart house strategies, James Vowles, then explained in the usual post-race video published by Mercedes on its official communication channels how this winning solution was born, providing a real lesson in how the strategy is outlined during a race weekend.
"Friday's data showed that one and two-stop strategies were very close – explained Vowles – the one-stop strategy should have prevailed towards the end of the race a few seconds, but they were close". The words of Vowles are also explained by this graph (images taken from the video) in which it is shown that the single stop seemed preferable on the eve.
In the race however the situation has changed rapidly, as the second graph shows (images taken from the video): "In the first stint the strategists calculated what the tire degradation was and noticed that they were moving more towards the two stops. At this point this strategy at the end of the race would have exceeded that of a single stop. Valtteri did a really good job in the first stint, creating a gap that allowed us to wait for a lap to call him back when Verstappen stopped. We could see that his tires (by Verstappen) they were going down and in fact they stopped – the head of Mercedes strategies commented again – Valtteri was able to mark the two-stop strategy in the following lap, which we knew to be competitive ".
On the other hand, the approach used towards Hamilton, who did not have to defend a placement, but replace: "With Lewis the one-stop strategy allowed for gain position on the track, but it would have been necessary to defend it at the end of the race – analyzed Vowles – this is the reason why we opted for the two stops with Valtteri and for the single one with Lewis. After choosing the single stop for Lewis but we had not finished, we kept checking the tires to understand how they would arrive at the end of the race. If they would last or if we should have gone to the two stops. "
Even in the case of plan B however, Hamilton's hopes of closing in second place would not have vanished according to the Mercedes wall: "It would not have been a terrible transition, because we would have had a huge difference in the age of the tire compared to Verstappen, perhaps enough to overtake on the track. In the event, we would have gone on medium tires. They wouldn't have been the best at the beginning of the stint, but the ones best suited to overcome Verstappen once it was reached. We went with math, knowing that it would have been hard for those tires to get to the end, but having the position on the track that allowed them to have the best chance of keeping the podium ".