Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff reckons the team’s radio communication with Lewis Hamilton played a vital role in his Hungarian Grand Prix victory.

Having ran nose-to-tail with Verstappen throughout much of the opening stint, Hamilton attempted a pass on the Red Bull driver at Turn 4 on Lap 39 but he ran wide. 

After momentarily backing off, Hamilton looked to be closing in once more when Mercedes called its driver into the pits to switch onto a two-stop strategy. The decision proved to be a masterstroke, as Hamilton demolished a 20-second deficit to overtake Verstappen on fresher tyres in the closing stages.

But Hamilton had initially been dubious about Mercedes’ strategy, and questioned whether the team had made the right call multiple times over team radio. The Briton was met by reassurance from his race engineer Peter Bonington and Wolff believes the motivation from the pit wall ultimately inspired Hamilton’s charge.

“We were very much in doubt because we knew we had to catch up a second a lap,” Wolff admitted.

“There was a stage when Max was turning up the engine and he was matching Lewis’s pace and Bono [Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonington] told me it was equal times you could almost hear the disbelief in Lewis’s voice why we did the second stop.

“But somehow he put himself back in the right frame of mind, probably we motivated him over the radio.

“One thing his father said to me, there’s just one sentence you need ‘you can do it’. And we knew he could do it.

“Even if the plan had said we were running out of laps we thought that by telling him he was catching him we could help. And that’s exactly what happened.”

Hamilton said he had to eradicate any negative doubts from his mind in order to catch Verstappen, a feat he described as being the “steepest wall to climb”.

“You have to put complete faith in your team because they have different viewpoint to you, so we did the stop and I came out on the Mediums and I thought ‘Jeez, I don’t know if these are going to go the distance at the speed I am going to have to go’,” Hamilton said.

“Also Max turned up the engine mode and they started doing mid-19s. I started thinking ‘I don’t know if I’m close this gap’.

“I think the trajectory, they said I was going to catch him with nine laps to go and then that changed super quickly and went to last lap.

“So after that I had to put all doubt and all question marks out of my mind and go for the best laps I could do every single lap and consistency and not drop any time whatsoever.

“I had one of the most consistent period of laps that I’d had. I don’t know if he had traffic or mistakes or whatever but the gap started to chop down quite quickly.

“I think with four or five laps to go I had him four seconds ahead and I could see him in my sights, so maybe he’s struggling with his tyres. So after that I was like ‘OK, we’ve got a serious race on here’.

“It felt like the steepest wall to climb when you come out that far behind but the team had relaxed faith that we would do it and I’m grateful for their hard work and the decision.”

 

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