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Mercedes F1 team defends strategist Vowles after Austria VSC error

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff has defended team strategist James Vowles after the decision not to pit Lewis Hamilton under the Austrian Grand Prix virtual safety car

Wolff also praised the "guts" of Vowles' radio messages to Hamilton accepting responsibility.

Hamilton was the only frontrunner not to pit when his team-mate Valtteri Bottas's retirement triggered the VSC, which left him running a disgruntled fourth once he had come in.

How Mercedes outdid its own Armageddon

Vowles spoke directly to Hamilton on several occasions afterwards, admitting "It was my mistake," and adding "I've thrown away the win".

He also tried to motivate Hamilton, saying "Give us what you can" and later, "We trust in you and believe in you".

The Austrian VSC call followed Mercedes losing also race leads due to strategy choices in Australia and China, but Wolff insisted the team was fully behind Vowles.

"No, we don't need to make changes," Wolff said.

"The most important thing is to understand why an error happens, and go back into the situation and analyse it.

"I don't think that we would make an error twice. It's just that the situation is very complex, we are fighting [between] six cars and it's just a tough situation.


"For me James [pictured on podium with Hamilton in 2017] is one of the best ever, and it needs guts to come out and, in order to save the best possible result, say in front of millions of people 'That was my mistake, now you can still do this with the car you have.'"

Wolff admitted putting Vowles on the radio to make clear the pitwall had got it wrong, was a way to motivate Hamilton.


"For Lewis, leading the race comfortably and coming out in P4, it was a moment where he was really suffering," Wolff explained.

"And we thought that it wasn't all over. We wanted to recover the maximum points that we could, and at that stage we were all in pain about the mistake that we'd made.

"James coming onto the radio is the mindset that we have: we are able to say that we've done a mistake in order to close the matter, and also to give him peace of mind that there's complete acknowledgement within the team that that has gone wrong, and it was our mistake, in order make him park the thought.

"It was about extracting what was left of performance in him, and helping him out of the mind loop of 'How can this possibly have happened?' By admitting the mistake it's easier to get yourself out of the spiral."



Wolff praised Hamilton for his positive attitude in the post-race debrief, in which Mercedes staff members back in the UK also participated.



He said Hamilton had reassured the team that it had 'the best reliability', 'the fastest car in the race' and was 'the best team I've ever driven for'.

"That is his mindset," Wolff added.

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