Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff has explained the decision to give Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas soft tyres for the final stint of Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, having appeared to hand Ferrari a pace advantage in the closing stages.

Hamilton and Bottas had originally been on one-stop strategies, only for a safety car period to prompt all of the leaders to come into the pits for a second time.

While Ferrari gave Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen the fastest ultra-soft compound for the final 11-lap sprint under green flags, Mercedes fitted its drivers with softs - the hardest tyre available at Spa.

Hamilton was able to hold on to the lead and claim his fifth win of the season, while Bottas slipped from third to fifth on the restart amid a lack of traction.

Explaining the decision after the race, Wolff said that as Mercedes had no fresh sets of ultra-softs available, the team believed the soft would be the best compound to complete the race on.

“We had no new ultra-softs left, they were used in qualifying, and I think it gave us an advantage. We expected the soft to be the faster tyre for the last 24 laps, and the cars would have stayed out,” Wolff said.

“The ultra was clearly a good option for the first two laps of attack after the restart, but then not after. There was lots of discussion about whether it was right, to either split or to overall give them the ultra.

“They were quite convincing that the [ultra-soft] tyre would be the better tyre for the immediate restart, the first two laps. We felt the soft would be the more competitive tyre at the end of the 12 laps and it proved to be the right thing.”

The safety car period was sparked by a clash between Force India drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez, leaving debris strewn across the track.

While the decision to bring out the safety car was criticised by Hamilton at the time, Wolff said it was the right call from the FIA race stewards.

“I think [Lewis] maybe didn’t see how much debris was maybe out on-track. I think it was a safe call as there were bits of tyres and tread and carbon parts lying on the track,” Wolff said.

“You don’t want to have a high-speed accident with a carbon piece sticking in your tyre. But I understand his frustration. You’re trying to maintain that gap and the safety car comes out.

“In the end it was good because he had a blister on his rear-right. I think maybe once he had seen everything, he was happy that we had the safety car.”

 

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