In extraordinary scenes, Hamilton was left as the only car to line up on the starting grid when the other 13 drivers behind him peeled into the pits to switch from intermediate to slick tyres for the standing restart following an early red flag during last Sunday’s race in Hungary.

Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff initially insisted he believed it was “100% the right decision” for Hamilton to take the standing restart and not pit for slicks.

But speaking in Mercedes’ post-race debrief video, technical director Mike Elliott conceded that “clearly in hindsight, we made the wrong choice”.

“You have to bear in mind those decisions are really, really tricky,” Elliott said.

“We agonised over what tyre to fit at the very start of the race, as it turned out the inter was definitely the right choice because it started raining on the lap to the grid.

“We agonised over what tyre to fit after the red flag and clearly all of the cars fitted inters. And on that lap to the grid, even though all the drivers had fitted inters, clearly others decided to change their mind and we should have too.

“But the reality is it’s actually more difficult for us as a team than it is for the other teams. When you are the front car, you can’t see what everybody else is doing. You are the lead car.

“When you are further back in the chain, you can see what others have done and you can change your mind accordingly. You can use that new evidence to your advantage.”

An additional dilemma facing Mercedes was the prospect that Hamilton could have lost ground queuing in the pit lane due to the positioning of the reigning world champions’ pit box, which is located closest to the pit entry.

Mercedes was also worried about getting involved in a potential pit lane collision, as seen with Haas rookie Nikita Mazepin and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen.


“The second problem for us is that we have the first pitbox in the pitlane,” Elliott explained. “So, as we’d have come into the pit lane and we’d boxed, all the cars would have been pouring past and it would have been very difficult for Lewis to get out and that would have delayed us.

“The second problem with that is if we had tried to force our way out into the pitlane we could have collided with another car and we actually saw that happen in that sequence of pitstops.

“What we were looking at is, what is the best strategy for us? And actually, we were thinking that we wanted to be conservative with that. Our main rival was further back and what we needed to do was to not make a silly mistake and end up crashing into another car.

“As it happened, we would have been better off pitting, even if we had to wait to the back of the queue.”

Mercedes believe Hamilton would have dropped to around sixth had he come into the pits along with the other 13 cars.

“It's quite difficult to know because it really depends on trying to find a gap in the pit lane to get out of your pit box,” Elliot said.

“We think P5, P6, maybe something like that. But probably as I said before, really, the bigger risk for us was colliding with another car in the pit lane trying to force our way out and we would have had to have been conservative.”

Having dropped to 14th when he came in for slicks at the end of the first racing lap, Hamilton eventually recovered to third.

The seven-time world champion was promoted to runner-up behind Esteban Ocon following Sebastian Vettel’s disqualification for a post-race fuel infringement.