Mercedes says it expected Formula 1 rival Williams to adopt a conservative strategy in the Austrian Grand Prix, because the Grove-based team had more to lose by gunning for victory.
Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas scored the first one-two for Williams in qualifying since 2003 at the Red Bull Ring and kept those positions through the first part of Sunday's race, thanks to Bottas repassing Nico Rosberg on the first run to Turn 2 after losing a spot off the line.
The Williams drivers eventually fell behind Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, who both benefited from pitting earlier at the end of each stint.
Massa lost the lead to Rosberg after his first stop, while Bottas split the Mercedes pair in the second stint until getting jumped by Hamilton at the second round of stops.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said his team anticipated Williams would play it safe on strategy in order to secure its biggest points haul of the season.
"We kind of expected that actually, because they had possibility of scoring some solid points in the last race in Montreal and they had the crash with Felipe and Valtteri not running well at the end, so we knew they would probably not be proactive on the pitstops," Wolff explained, when asked by AUTOSPORT whether conservatism from Williams had played into Mercedes' hands.
"We knew we could go a little bit longer [on the tyres] so the strategy wasn't just pitting earlier.
"You could see they didn't react immediately because it's also a thing of confidence and the mentality of trusting you can do it.
"Where Williams comes from at the moment there is more to lose than to win in being aggressive on strategy."
Wolff also praised the impressive speed shown by the Williams FW36 around the Red Bull Ring.
"Honestly I'm happy to see how they performed, because at the beginning [of the race] the pace was really impressive - not only in the first sector whey they had six or seven km/h more speed on the straights," Wolff added, when asked by AUTOSPORT why he thought Williams had been so strong in Austria.
"You could see how easily Valtteri passed Nico after the start, but if you have a car that is less draggy it should be suffering in the downforce parts, but it didn't - his second and third sectors were quite impressive as well, so I think they've just done a good job."