Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene believes Mercedes got too complacent about its advantage when pitting Lewis Hamilton in the Monaco Grand Prix.
Hamilton stopped under the safety car late in the race despite enjoying a substantial lead, a move which dropped him to third place behind Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel. Despite being on fresh tyres, Hamilton – who believed his two rivals would also pit – was unable to pass the Ferrari and finished in third.
Asked if Ferrari considered pitting, Arrivabene replied: "No, actually it was the opposite and we were nervous at the beginning thinking about them to pit.
"We were looking for the window and our strategist said ‘we stay cool, they are doing a kind of show’. In any case, he said that if they come in then we would stay out. He was really straightforward on this and he was right. I know that we were lucky, I’m not telling you something different.
"In my opinion, they were a bit too much convinced about their power, and I recognise they are very intelligent and stronger than us, but this time we were smarter."
Mercedes’ head of motorsport Toto Wolff has apologised to Lewis Hamilton for the miscalculation that cost him victory at the Monaco Grand Prix.
An otherwise run-of-the-mill race on the streets of the principality came alive late on when Max Verstappen crashed his Toro Rosso.
It proved the defining moment as it led the safety car to be deployed for the first time in the race, first virtually and then a real car, and the bemusing decision for Hamilton to pit.
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It was a horribly misjudged choice, with the Brit overtaken by both team-mate Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel as almost certain victory slipped out of his hands.
“What the hell happened there? That’s exactly the right question and the simple answer is we got the math, the calculation, wrong,” Mercedes chief Wolff said.
“We thought we had a gap which we didn’t have when the safety car came out and Lewis was behind the safety car. “The calculation was simply wrong, hence what happened.”
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Wolff refused to apportion the blame – “this was a team decision, we are all in this together” – and knows it looks a risky move from the outside.
“The decisions are being made jointly with a lot of information at the same time,” Wolff said of the decision taken just 50 metres before the pit entry.
“Within a fraction of seconds, you need to make a call. We tried to get as much input as possible from the engineers, from the management, from the driver and then take a decision. In that case, the algorithm was wrong.”
Hamilton cut an understandably gloomy figure after becoming just the second driver in the last 12 races to have started Monaco in pole and failed to win.
The Brit kept his counsel, though, and Wolff was impressed by the composed nature of his post-race interviews.
“We win and we lose together and that one goes on the team,” he said. “I apologised and that is probably the only thing you can do.
“He is a great leader, a great driver and I am sure that he will understand that sometimes we make errors and this was such a situation. I said ‘apologies for that one’. It was all good between us.”
Nico Rosberg took full advantage of one of Formula One’s greatest tactical errors to land an unexpected victory and become only the fourth man to claim a hat-trick of consecutive wins in the Monaco Grand Prix.
The 29-year-old German finished ahead of compatriot Sebastian Vettel in a Ferrari with long-time leader and Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton third.
Rosberg, who reduced the gap between himself and Hamilton in the world championship standings to 10 points after six races, trailed his team-mate for 63 laps until an accident prompted a Safety Car intervention that, in turn, led the team to call the Briton in for an unexpected and unnecessary pit-stop.
Obeying his team, Hamilton, who led by 21 seconds before he pitted, came out in third place and, after the race was re-started with eight laps remaining, found it impossible to pass Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari, let alone Rosberg, to claim his fourth victory of the year.
“I’ve lost the race, haven’t I?” asked Hamilton on seeing his reversal of fortunes after exiting the pit lane.
“What’s happened, guys?” Hamilton’s team were swift to apologise for the misjudgement, but their actions had deprived him, and the spectators, of a fair sporting outcome after he had dominated the 62nd running of this classic 78 laps contest.
Rosberg’s triumph enabled him to join Briton Graham Hill, Frenchman Alain Prost and Brazilian Ayrton Senna in completing a Monaco hat-trick.
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“I am very happy,” said Rosberg, who was also winning two consecutive Grands Prix for the first time. “But I know it was just a lot of luck. Lewis drove brilliantly and would have deserved the win, for sure, but that’s the way it is in racing. I know I got lucky. I will just enjoy the moment…”
Hamilton, who has won just once at Monaco, was remarkably relaxed about the mishap — outwardly at least.
“It was not the easiest of races,” said Hamilton. “But the team has been amazing all year and we win and lose together.” Asked about his mind set, he added: “Come back and win the next one.”
Mercedes director Niki Lauda said the team had apologised for the mistake. “Yes, it was clear… I don’t know why it happened. Too much confusion. It was the wrong decision,” he said.
Team boss Toto Wolff said: “For the team, I apologise. It was a mistake.” Until the Safety Car, after Dutch teenager Max Verstappen in his Toro Rosso had crashed at Ste Devote, it had been Hamilton’s race, but he ended up settling for a disappointed third ahead of the two Red Bulls of Russian Daniil Kvyat and Australian Daniel Ricciardo.
Finn Kimi Raikkonen finished sixth for Ferrari ahead of Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India and Briton Jenson Button who claimed the struggling McLaren Honda team’s first points of the year in eighth place.
Brazilian Felipe Nasr came home ninth for Sauber and remarkably, after starting from the pit lane, Spaniard Carlos Sainz finished 10th to score a point in the second Toro Rosso car.