Toto Wolff says Ferrari lost the Hungarian Grand Prix with decisions in free practice

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Ferrari paralyzed itself by not keeping a new set of medium tires available for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Ferrari took the surprising decision to put Charles Leclerc on the hard tires during the race, despite a warning from Alpine, among others, who had a hard time on that compound.

Leclerc met a similar fate, powerless to defend against Max Verstappen and George Russell on the hard rubber, leading to Ferrari calling him for a third pit stop and a switch to soft tyres.

That left Leclerc in P6, the position where he finished the race, after appearing at one point to be a strong contender for victory.

When asked by Sky Sports F1 whether Mercedes kept scratching their heads when Ferrari put Leclerc on the hard tyres, Wolff replied: “I don’t think they had an option. They only had hard and soft left and before the soft it was still too early So only the hard ones.

“I think the mistake was made Friday or Saturday of not handing over a new medium.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, chasing Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes.  Hungary, July 2022.

However, the decision certainly helped the cause of Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton moving from P7 on the grid to P2, while Russell crossed the line P3 to take consecutive double podium results for the team.

Hamilton said if it hadn’t been for a DRS mistake in qualifying that started him in P7, he felt the pace was there for him to challenge for the win.

That is a belief that Wolff shares.

“First of all you have to say that George had a great qualifying session with pole and drove a super solid race,” said Wolff. “But he was always in that fight and that’s why you use the tires, you rely on them a lot.

“And then he kind of ran out of tires in the second stint.

“But where Lewis came from is unbelievable. He was kind of in the shadows, nobody really looked at him where he came from, and suddenly he popped in faster than the leaders.

“And I think in qualifying if we hadn’t failed the DRS yesterday, I think we would have had a nice fight up front for the win.”

Hamilton originally had track position over Verstappen, but Red Bull pulled a successful undercut to eliminate the Dutchman ahead of Hamilton when he stopped three laps later.

When asked why Mercedes hadn’t moved to hide that strategy, Wolff said: “At that point they were just taking a big risk, or they were taking the risk of undercutting us and getting on the tire very early.

“It wasn’t clear yet if it was a one-stop or two-stop and for us it was just too early and they were gambling, they took the risk and at the end the tire life was extended more than we thought. ”

It was then pointed out to Wolff that Russell had effectively mirrored Verstappen’s strategy, but that despite starting from pole, he finished more than 12 seconds behind the Red Bull driver, while Verstappen launched from P10.

However, Wolff said this just shows the level at which Verstappen and Red Bull operate.

“I think you have to recognize that Max in the Red Bull right now – I think Charles with the Ferrari too – is just ahead of everyone else,” he said. ‘I don’t know how much today.

“And I think that with Lewis and Budapest is a success story. And I think we lost that race with him yesterday.”

Nevertheless, Mercedes certainly put in their strongest qualifying and race trim performance of the season so far in Hungary, an encouraging sign as they head into the summer break before returning to action in Belgium.

However, Wolff wants the team not to get ahead of things yet.

“At least we have a result that we can work with,” said Wolff. “We had a really bad Friday, so we know what not to do. So we do the opposite.

“But Spa is very different. So let’s not celebrate that we are there yet, because we are not yet.”

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