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Toto Wolff Q&A: Hamilton won't dwell on Mercedes' error

24 May 2015

Lewis Hamilton looked to be cruising to victory on the Monte Carlo streets, only for Mercedes to make the mistaken decision to pit him under a late safety car. The Briton finished third, with team mate Nico Rosberg prevailing instead. As head of motorsport Toto Wolff explains, the team simply got their sums wrong - but having apologsied to Hamilton, he is confident the Briton will bounce back quickly...

Q: Toto, it was a surprising result. How did it all come about? Lewis looked a sure winner, only to end up in P3...

Toto Wolff: We simply got the calculation wrong. We thought that we would have a bigger gap - a couple of seconds more - but we didn't.

Q: Was it a pure engineers' decision? Are they the ones to blame?

TW: No, it was a team decision. We are all together in this. We make decisions together. We win and lose together. 

Q: How much did the fact it was a virtual safety car, but turned into a real safety car, confuse the calculations of the engineers?

TW: In Monaco you don't have a GPS - and that makes everything more difficult. That's why we got it wrong when it switched from the virtual safety car into the safety car.

Q: At what point after Max Verstappen's accident was the message passed to Lewis to come in?

TW: In Rascasse. The final decision was made 50 metres before the pit lane entry.

Q: There are rumours that Lewis was held up by the safety car before Rascasse. What do you know about that?

TW: We have to check what speed the safety car was doing. But yes he closed up with the safety car and lost time. 

Q: When you saw all that wouldn't it have been common sense to not call him in? Do you really rely only on data?

TW: We we're in a situation of waging common sense against data. Common sense is okay, but it doesn't win races in the long run. You have to rely on data - and now we have to find out why we got it wrong today.  

Q: Why take that gamble to call him in when real information was so limited? Lewis had a sound lead on track, so why bring him in?

TW: The potential risk could have been Sebastian (Vettel) switching to supersoft tyres and coming up behind Nico. Now in hindsight I have to confess that the data was wrong.

Q: Is it correct that the whole situation came about because you were afraid that Sebastian would switch to the supersofts? He probably would have fallen behind the two Red Bulls…

TW: …no he would have been in P3…

Q: …behind Nico! So why was there fear for Lewis's position?

TW: That is probably the common sense I was talking about - even if you run new supersofts in P3 it is very difficult to overtake one car, let alone two! Probably the result would have been a one and three for us - with a different order. Very likely it would have ended in that way.   

Q: Why didn't you wait with calling Lewis in after you saw Sebastian's strategy? 

TW: Because he was behind us. He was some 13 seconds behind us.

Q: Did Lewis question on the radio the decision to come in? 

TW: We talked about it. There was the information that the temperatures dropped and that there was no grip any more on the prime tyres - but that was not the real reason why we called him in. The numbers just added up.

Q: What active role in all this mess did Lewis play? You just mentioned the tyre temperature and the loss of grip…

TW: We made the decision together. You make such a call within a fraction of a second. We tried to get as much input on the situation as possible - from the engineers, from the management and from the driver - and then took a decision. In that case the algorithm was wrong. 

Q: How do you make it up to him?

TW: I have apologised. This one clearly goes on the team. Lewis is a great driver and I am sure he will understand that it is human nature that errors are made sometimes. That's it.

Q: What were Lewis's first words to you?

TW: He was in the media scrum when I apologised and from his look I could see that everything was okay between us. 

Q: How do you think Lewis will cope with all this?

TW: He has such a mental strength and is on a roll. Yes, it must be very sore to lose that race win because it was his to win. But I have no doubt that he will recover as quickly as he always did.  

Q: What would you have done if Lewis had come out behind Nico and not Sebastian? Would you have asked Nico to let him pass?

TW: I have already enough problems - no need for that! We briefly discussed what we would do if Lewis passed Sebastian, and very likely we would not have interfered. 

Q: Some wondered if that was a convenient outcome given the fact that [Mercedes-Benz head] Dr. Dieter Zetsche was here and probably would have wanted a German winner?

TW: Dr. Zetsche was very unhappy with that particular situation. Believe me there is no such thing as favouritism in this team, for any reason.