Formula 1 is a sport where tyre decisions can make or break a race, and Mercedes technical director James Allison has shed light on the reasoning behind the split strategy and tyre choices during the British Grand Prix.
Analysing the decisions made for George Russell and Lewis Hamilton in a video for Mercedes’ YouTube channel, Allison provided insight into the team’s thought process and the factors that influenced their choices.
Russell managed P5 in the race, while seven-time world champion Hamilton took P3.
Soft Tyres for George, Medium Tyres for Lewis
The decision to start Russell on soft tyres and Hamilton on medium tyres was a result of careful evaluation and consideration.
Allison explained that during the weekend, they noticed that all the tyres, once they reached racing temperature, performed similarly.
The soft tyre provided better performance at the beginning but struggled towards the end of its life, while the hard tyre had better warm-up characteristics but performed less favourably at the start.
The team’s objective was to maximise the chances of a strong overall result. Considering their car’s performance on the soft tyres during Friday’s long runs, and with George starting ahead of Lewis on the grid, the decision was made to equip George with soft tyres.
Allison said of the choice: “We’d seen that our car had been pretty good on the soft tyre when we did our long runs on the Friday and we felt with George being in front of Lewis on the grid, giving him the soft tyre would give him his best chance of jumping past someone at the start and indeed that’s what happened.
“George managed to leap-frog one of the Ferraris in the start, so good result there and what we hoped for from the choice.”
Allison: Bummer for George
As the team’s focus was on achieving a good overall result, it didn’t make sense for Hamilton to attempt to overtake his teammate. The medium tyre was a strong race tyre, capable of lasting longer, which aligned with their expectations of a one-stop strategy.
It also provided Hamilton with the chance to run in free air, towards the upper end of the strategy window.
Allison explained: ”In the end, that played out beautifully for Lewis as well because by being able to run long he was still on the track when the safety car came out, and that played really nicely into his hands.
“So a bit of a bummer for George to lose out under that safety car, but them’s the breaks, and overall splitting the strategy just gave us our best chance, our best odds of having a good overall team result, and actually for each individual driver it made sense as well.”