Lewis Hamilton 's late pit stop at the Turkish Grand Prix saved him from dropping even more points in the F1 title race, a Mercedes chief has claimed.
After choosing to try to complete the whole race on the same set of intermediate tyres he started with, the seven-time world champion was called into the pits by his team with just seven laps to go.
The Brit happily obeyed that call, but was less than impressed when he was back out on track and realised that he had been overtaken by Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc while he was being fitted with fresh rubber.
He ended up finishing fifth, behind title rival Max Verstappen in second ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Perez on the podium, though Mercedes man Valtteri Bottas was able to win in Istanbul.
The Finn's win meant the team extended their lead in the constructors' championship, but Hamilton lost top spot in the drivers' standings to Verstappen with six points separating them.
But that gap would most likely have been larger had the team not cut their losses and pulled him in for new tyres when they did, according to chief technical officer James Allison.
After crunching the numbers, the Mercedes chief said the most likely outcome would have been that his tyres would have degraded even more than they already had, and Hamilton could have dropped to eighth.
"As ever with strategy, at the end of the race it's always obvious what would have been the perfect lap [to pit on]," he said.
"However, if we look at it overall, the best time to have stopped would have been around the [Lap] 36, 37 mark, that was when Valtteri and Verstappen stopped.
"Had Lewis done the same and then treated his tyres nice and gently, then in all likelihood he would have come in a strong fourth, maybe be able to pressurise Perez for third and perhaps overtake him.
"When we eventually did call Lewis in, it was because the lap time chart that we use to make our predictions was telling us that it was not looking good.
"We were looking at something that was somewhere in the region of seventh, eighth place, based on the way in which the tyres were progressively degrading."
Had that scenario come true, instead of the 10 points he took from Istanbul Hamilton would have come away with just four – losing even more ground to Verstappen in their tight title battle.
While Hamilton bluntly showed his displeasure to his team over the radio during the race, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he had "no problem at all with tough conversations on the radio".
And Hamilton took to social media the day after the race to explain the situation and insist he was not angry with his team.
"Yesterday we took the risk to stay out hoping it would dry, it didn't," he wrote on Instagram. "I wanted to risk it and try and go to the end, but it was my call to stay out and it didn't work. In the end we did pit and it was the safest thing to do.
"We live and we learn. We win and we lose as a team. Don't ever expect me to be all polite and calm on the radio when I'm racing, we are all very passionate and in the heat of the moment that passion can come out, as it does for all drivers.
"My heart and spirit are out there on the track, it's the fire in me that's got me this far but any angst is quickly forgotten and we talked it through, already looking ahead to the next race."
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