Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton “saved us” with his race-winning stint on worn tyres to hold off Max Verstappen to claim an emotional victory at the Monaco Grand Prix, but feels had it been any other circuit it would have been a race the team would have lost.

Following an early Safety Car on Lap 11 due to debris scattered on track by Charles Leclerc’s tyre puncture on his Ferrari, the top four drivers all pitted including a double stack by Mercedes.

While Bottas lost two spots in a collision with Max Verstappen exiting the pits, Hamilton returned into the lead on fresh medium tyres but with 67 laps to go he faced a tough task to get to the finish with Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel on the hard and more durable tyres.

Hamilton made his concerns clear over his Mercedes team radio that he wasn’t going to be able to keep up his pace to the finish, to the point he needed assuring by chief strategist James Vowles, as he held off attacks from Verstappen to keep the lead and take victory.

After discussing its strategy after the race, Wolff concedes Mercedes made the wrong call putting Hamilton on the medium tyres over the hard options and paid credit to the reigning F1 world champion for delivering the win.

“I just had a chat with James [Vowles] and it was obviously the wrong call,” Wolff said. “We thought the tyre would make it to the end and it didn’t.

“But he [Hamilton] saved us, his driving really saved us. Something which we really need to analyse.

“What we’ve calculated is that the medium would make it, if we changed through Lap 15 or 16, it would make it to the end with the right management. Being in the lead, that was a pretty straight strategy. It didn’t even seem like a huge stretch.

“We realised, with 20 laps into the race, that on the left front some graining appeared, he started to complain about the understeer from the graining and it was clear that it would get very, very difficult to make it to the end.

“So we had quite some discussions about the tyre lasting another 40 laps, and I was reminded that it was only 20 laps on a normal circuit. So, I calmed down a bit! But everybody knew that it’s going to be a huge stretch.

“I believe that probably 20 laps to the end, he had like 0% rubber left on the tyre. He had understeer in the low speeds, you could see it around Loews, the car wouldn’t turn.”

Despite his joy at the victory, which acted as tribute following the death of Mercedes Chairman Niki Lauda during the build-up to the Monaco race, Wolff accepts his team got lucky and would have lost the race at any other circuit on the calendar with Monte Carlo’s extremely tough overtaking opportunities playing into Hamilton’s hands.

“We were close to losing today. Considering that it’s a track where you can’t overtake, it was still – he [Verstappen] still tried and could’ve made the pass,” he said. “I think going back to normal race tracks we need to accept that we, in terms of tyre life, need to learn from Monaco and understand why that was. Because in this situation in Montreal you lose the race.

“I think from a mindset, we must never be carried away. We’re just flying at the moment, but we were a bit lucky today to actually win that race.”

With Hamilton taking a fourth win of the season he extends his F1 world championship lead to 17 points over Mercedes teammate Bottas who finished a promoted third place after Verstappen was dropped to fourth place with a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release during his pit stop.