Radio messages between Lewis Hamilton and his race engineer revealed just how the decision ultimately cost Lewis Hamilton a podium.
Sunday’s race in Turkey saw any strategy teams had come prepared with a fly out the window. The unpredictable weather and track conditions made for a harrowing experience for strategists and drivers alike. One person who left feeling that the call ended up costing him crucial points was seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 10, 2021
While many would argue that Hamilton’s tyre ordeal started when drivers ahead of him started to pit for fresh intermediate tyres from lap 36, the question of pitting was planted into Hamilton’s mind in lap 32.
In lap 32, Fernando Alonso pit for fresh intermediates, and that was when ‘Bono’ first mentioned new inters to the defending champion. Alonso was one of the first few drivers to have come in to pit for new intermediates and came out a few seconds ahead of Hamilton. Bono explained that Alonso had come into the pits and that the team would keep him updated on how those tyres will perform.
After this was radio silence for around five laps; Hamilton was closing in on Redbull’s Sergio Perez in those five laps. This was when fans got to see one of the finest displays of wheel-to-wheel racing on the day.
Hamilton’s pace advantage from the new ICE was visible, but Perez held his ground and jostled for position until Hamilton had to bow out of the battle eventually.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 10, 2021
This encounter cost Hamilton 5 seconds to the cars in front
As a result of the showdown between Perez and Hamilton, Verstappen could pit and come out ahead of the two drivers comfortably. Hamilton then expressed on the radio that he wanted to ‘undercut’ Perez and thus wanted the team to bring him in.
However, it was not meant to be as Perez went into the pits immediately the next time they came by the entrance, and Hamilton stayed out longer.
Hamilton then insisted that he should stay out because he felt that the track would dry up soon, and then they’d change onto slicks for the remainder of the laps, hoping he’d gain more positions this way.
Tensions rising in the Mercedes cockpit
Lap 41 saw Bono call Hamilton in with his now signature message: “Box, Box. Box, Box”. “Why?” he replied. Bono informed him that the new inters were the way forward. They did not believe that the track would dry enough for the slicks and that Hamilton could not reach the end of the race on old intermediate tyres.
Between lap 41 and lap 49, Bono kept on updating Hamilton on the other drivers’ tyre conditions and simultaneously suggested that Hamilton box as well. His suggestions were met with further resistance from the multiple World Champion.
They then saw Charles Leclerc(Who had still not pit) losing the lead to Bottas, who was on a pair of fresh inters. At this moment, Lewis Hamilton maintained that he could still survive on the old tyres. “I mean, I’m sliding around but it’s okay so far.”
Bonnington informed him that this would be their last opportunity to box; otherwise, they would risk losing their gap to Pierre Gasly, who was charging behind. Hamilton came into the pits at the end of lap 49. This caused him to come out behind Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc.
“**** man, why’d you give up that space?” said Briton. Hamilton was told that this was the only option; otherwise, he’d have plummeted further down the order and lost even more points. “What position am I in, man?” he asked again. “Currently P5.” Bonnington replied.
“We shouldn’t have come in, man…Got massive graining, man. I told you,” said hamilton. “Okay copy, Lewis. We were losing time to Perez but we’ll chat about it later. Got Gasly car behind 1.7….Gasly at one second,” informed his team.
“Leave it alone, man,” said the seven-time World Champion. He finished the race in P5, while the race was won by Mercedes teammate Valterri Bottas with Championship Rival Max Verstappen in second. Verstappen now leads the championship battle by 6 points.