Christian Horner weighs in on Mercedes’ Japan strategy which cost Lewis Hamilton

Christian Horner and Damon Hill involved in debate over Mercedes' strategy at F1 Japanese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton

A debate - involving Christian Horner - has proven how difficult it was for Mercedes to select the optimum strategy in the F1 Japanese Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton’s P9 and George Russell’s P7 - behind both Ferraris and both Red Bulls among others - suggests that Mercedes got their decision wrong in Suzuka.

After a first-lap red flag, they restarted by switching to hard compounds.

Hamilton called to “change the strategy” on his team radio after battling to find any pace.

Mercedes changed their drivers onto new hard tyres, then finished on mediums, but faced scrutiny for their decision-making.

Hamilton afterwards defended his team’s strategy but insisted that he preferred the medium tyre.

“A topsy-turvy weekend,” Sky Sports’ Bernie Collins assessed. “They will be disappointed by what has happened in the race.

“Lewis is maybe a little bit skewed by the first stint on the hards. He was overtaken by George on the same tyre, likely on the same fuel load.

“That never feels great from a driver’s point of view because he was ahead at the red flag.

“Then he says the ‘medium at the end felt the best’. Of course it does! It’s the lightest the car has been, the best the track has been…

“All of those things mean that the medium - or whatever tyre you fit for the final stint - will feel the best."

Collins insisted that the medium tyre is not always preferable: “Not necessarily. That is a bit subjective.

“If he had a medium at the start that he could compare with? Then maybe. But we don’t have that.”

Christian Horner's verdict on Mercedes' strategy call

Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka,
Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal. Formula 1 World…

But Damon Hill had a different view about Mercedes’ strategy.

Both Red Bull and Ferrari opted for a different tyre strategy to Mercedes.

“I disagree with Bernie,” Hill said. “As a driver, I would have liked both mediums, please!”

Red Bull team principal Horner then weighed into the debate with his verdict.

“I was speaking with Checo,” Horner said. “He was saying with hindsight he would have preferred two hard tyres, rather than two mediums, to go into the race.

“It seems like Checo is on Team Bernie.

“I don’t think there was much in it. The track was warmer today, that brought the cars into a different operating window.

“The circuit just gets faster and faster throughout the race.”

Red Bull secured a 1-2 finish - their third of 2024 - with Max Verstappen leading Sergio Perez home.

Verstappen told Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz (who completed the podium) that Red Bull preferred a two-stop strategy after the restart.

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