Ex-Mercedes chief Ross Brawn says the German manufacturer’s “more prescriptive approach” to race strategy is hurting its chances against its rivals Red Bull and Ferrari.

The F1 managing director for motorsport has given his post-race insight into the Chinese Grand Prix by praising Red Bull for its gamble to pit both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo under the safety car which paid off with the Australian driver charging through the pack to clinch victory.

While Verstappen somewhat faltered after colliding with Sebastian Vettel, Brawn applauded Red Bull’s late race attack but felt Mercedes also had a key opportunity for victory but missed it with Lewis Hamilton.

Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel were the unlucky front-runners to pass the pits just as the safety car came out, denying them the chance to pit, but Hamilton had an opportunity to take on fresh tyres only for Mercedes to stay the defending F1 world champion to stay out to defend his track position.

“Red Bull called in both its drivers for a second stop, double stacked, taking a gamble, which the other two teams fighting for the lead were not prepared to do,” Brawn said. “It seems in this early part of the season that Mercedes is sticking to a more prescriptive approach when it comes to managing the race.

“Red Bull, on the other hand, seems to have a more flexible approach to race management, and it definitely helps having two drivers like Ricciardo and Verstappen who are willing to buy into and adapt to their team's quick-thinking approach. This mindset definitely paid off.”

Ricciardo’s dramatic victory in China saw Mercedes suffer its longest winless run in the V6 hybrid era of three consecutive races while it lost its perfect pole position record at the Shanghai International Circuit with Ferrari dominating to a front row lockout in qualifying.

Brawn has questioned the cause of Mercedes’ drop-off in results as a combination of stronger opposition from Red Bull and Ferrari while the reigning F1 world champions continue to suffer with “small issues that accumulate and contribute to losing races.”

“What's happening to the dominant force in the current F1 era? In all three races so far this season, they've been in with a chance of winning – remember Bottas was leading – but they've failed every time,” Brawn said. “The opposition is stronger and they have increased in number and seem to have drastically closed down the technical edge that Mercedes has held for the past four years.

“What can they do to turn things around? Drastic action is not needed, they need to remain composed and fix all the small issues that accumulate and contribute to losing races. They are the same team that have been so dominant and they haven't forgotten what to do.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has played down the missed strategy opportunity to pit Hamilton under the safety car in China having felt his team had a better chance of victory by holding on to track position over taking fresh tyres.


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