Mercedes has admitted that it lost its chance to beat Sebastian Vettel to victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix because it was too slow to realise the Ferrari driver would try a one-stop strategy.
The Brackley-based outfit spent the middle phase of the Sakhir race convinced that Valtteri Bottas was well-placed to triumph because it appeared that race leader Vettel would need to make a second stop for tyres.
But in the end, Vettel managed to keep his tyres alive just long enough to not need to change them and, by the time Mercedes realised it needed to close the gap to the front, it was too late.
Speaking on Mercedes’ regular post-race ‘Pure Pit Wall’ debrief, Mercedes technical director James Allison said that if the team had noticed earlier what Vettel was up to then it would have told Bottas to up his pace.
“We were probably a little bit too slow to recognise the threat that Sebastian was actually going to take the soft tyres all the way to the flag,” said Allison.
“Had we been slightly quicker to react to it we would probably have kept more pressure on him on the laps 35-45, and we might have had a better outcome as a result.
“We expected him to stop again but he did very, very well in nursing those tyres all the way to the flag.
“Valtteri did manage to close down on Vettel, with three laps to go we were hard up against his bumper but we were not quite good enough to get past him.
“Probably if the race had been a lap or two longer it would have been a different outcome but we left our charge a little bit too late and weren’t able to get the race win.”
Allison’s comments come after Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said his team believed it was looking well set for the win when Bottas emerged from the pits on longer lasting tyres to Vettel.
“I think we had won the race already, after coming out on the medium behind Sebastian with a gap that we were able to close down, knowing they would either have to stop once again, or they would run out of tyre, if we were to push them,” he said.
“This was the moment I would say 90% probability was on us winning. And we lost that.”
Allison also denied that a factor in not allowing Bottas to close up quicker on Vettel was that the tyre wear on the Mercedes is a concern.
“The tyre wear of our car this year has been very good and in general better than the field,” he explained.
“Whether specifically we could have made the soft tyres last the number of laps that Sebastian did we would only know by trying.
“My guess is we would because our car is looking after its tyres very well in the races this year.”