Allison: Vettel wouldn't have beaten Hamilton in Hungary


While some argue that his botched pit stop, which saw him rejoin the race behind Valtteri Bottas, thus leading to 24 laps of cat and mouse pursuit, Sebastian Vettel would have caught Lewis Hamilton and possibly pass him, Mercedes technical boss James Allison doesn't agree.

"I don't think he would've been able to, says the Briton in the latest edition of Pure Pitwall. "The reason for that is, if you look at what happened when Vettel came out behind Valtteri, he didn't jump him, when he came out behind Valtteri, Vettel was on brand, brand new ultrasofts at that stage and Valtteri was on quite well used softs.

"He was on 20-lap or so old softs at the time. He presented no threat at all to Valtteri, until Valtteri got up somewhere near 50 laps old on his soft tyres.

"So, it's extremely difficult to see how after he'd came out of the pits and spent 20 laps or so catching Lewis, had he been able to, that he would've had anything like the sort of performance differential needed to overtake Lewis later in the race."

The Finn had stopped earlier in the race as Mercedes covered Kimi Raikkonen's early stop. Asked if the Finn could have stayed out longer, Allison admits: "In hindsight, yes, we could've done. Whether or not we could've stayed out long enough to have made a difference is another question altogether. Kimi was a few seconds behind Valtteri when he made his first stop of the day so we had a small amount of breathing space.

"We didn't have to react the lap later and then we had a bit more breathing space by the fact that Kimi's pit stop was actually quite slow. So, although we did choose to react quite quickly we contemplated for a little while pushing out another couple of laps and making it more of a tight thing to Kimi to prevent him undercutting us.

"We contemplated it but in the end, we rejected it, because we thought well we too might have a bad pit stop and what we definitely don't want to do is lose the position to Kimi by pushing our luck too far. Arguably we were a little conservative, arguably we could've had a couple more laps on that first stint and then as a result of that been a little bit less exposed at the end of the race.

"But, the reality is that we lost the rubber with about six or seven laps to go and those two laps wouldn't have made any difference. The other thing to consider is one of the reasons Valtteri was able to be out in front of Sebastian at that crucial phase in the race where Sebastian made his own stop is that he'd had a couple more laps racing on the fresher rubber that he then changed to, that meant he was that much further up the road.

"It would've been probably very unlikely that we would've been able to be ahead of Vettel when Vettel made his stop had we used those two extra laps earlier in the race. So, it's always a swings and roundabouts thing and never quite as obvious as it looks at first glance."

Asked if it would have helped Bottas to pit him for new ultras under the VSC, Allison admits: "It would've done, there is no doubt about that, if... it would've done if the VSC was guaranteed to have lasted long enough for us to make the stop. At the time we were holding what felt like a risky second place, where we thought we might be able to get to the end but we weren't certain and we felt that the likely worst case scenario was that we'd come home fourth.

"So, we might well have considered trading that risky second place for a nailed-on third, because we had the space to do it and get out ahead of Raikkonen. We might've considered it if we could be confident that the VSC would've lasted long enough for us to complete the change.

"Trouble was, the car that had brought out the VSC was stopped right by a gap in the barriers and it was only going to take a matter of seconds for the marshals to pull that car off the track and then the VSC would've ended.

"It would've been bad for us to find ourselves in the no-mans land where we had started a VSC stop but it ended up being halfway between a full stop and a VSC stop, because of the VSC ending halfway through.

"So, in the end we decided to cling on for our risky second place strategy, thinking worst case we would finish fourth. As it happened, the second place didn't work out and it ended up a little worse for Valtteri and for us as a result of those collisions meaning in the final analysis he dropped down to fifth place, behind Ricciardo. But, we did consider it and that's why we didn't do it."

Finally, asked quite how Hamilton made his ultras last so long (25 laps), Allison says: "We were on the ultrasofts at the start of the race to make a good start, we had a free choice because of Saturday's weather conditions, we could've gone soft, we could've gone ultrasoft.

"In part, it was to get a good start but also because most of our strategic simulations showed that that was the best way to ensure we had a good result at the end of the race.

"How did we make them last as long as we did, or how did Lewis do that? It was a mixture of two things, first of all we have got a car that looks after its tyres quite well and was set up to look after those tyres.

"But also, we have a driver with very delicate feet who is able to make sure he didn't break traction, was looking after the tyres, was controlling their temperatures and therefore extending their life as far as possible, while also being pretty quick."

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Published: 01/08/2018
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