Mercedes ready to take strategy risks with Hamilton in Monaco GP

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff believes the team is willing to take risks with Lewis Hamilton’s strategy in Monaco after he only qualified seventh on Saturday.

Mercedes ready to take strategy risks with Hamilton in Monaco GP

Hamilton slumped to his worst qualifying performance in almost three years as he struggled to get his tyres in the right temperature window, leaving him low on grip.

The seven-time world champion finished three-quarters of a second off polesitter Charles Leclerc’s time, and said after qualifying that his hopes of winning in Monaco were over.

The lack of overtaking opportunities left Hamilton braced for a difficult race, but it could prompt some creativity from the Mercedes pitwall.

Wolff said that, while seventh was not a low enough result to prompt any risks on-track from Hamilton, given the close title fight against Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, it could allow for some risky strategies to play out.

“Driving-wise, no, because P7 still scores six points,” Wolff said when asked what risks Mercedes could afford to take with Hamilton.

“But six points, you'd rather have six points than none. If Max wins the race or finishes second, that's still a large enough gap.

“So driving-wise no, but I think in terms of strategy, we can take risks. They are obviously limited, due to the reasons stated before, with traffic behind. But I think we have a car that is quicker than P7.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Mercedes failed to qualify with a car on the front row for the first time this season after Valtteri Bottas could only finish third, trailing Verstappen in P2.

Wolff said that finishing third and seventh would be a result that Mercedes would have to “take on the chin” and learn lessons from its qualifying struggles.

“If we can finish in better positions, then I would very much hope so,” Wolff said.

“Monaco obviously isn’t the place where you have lots of overtaking opportunities.”

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Mercedes has struggled through the early part of the season with tyre warm-up on the W12 car, with the issue being exacerbated for Hamilton on Saturday in qualifying.

It left the three-time Monaco GP winner braced for a race of damage limitation, with his 14-point lead in the drivers’ championship under threat.

“We definitely struggle [with tyre warm-up], and I think this is magnified here being that is obviously a low energy circuit,” Hamilton said.

“There are not really any high-speed areas, and then today, it was much, much cooler. So it's sort of get worse over the day or so. I’m not really sure how Valtteri is able to get his tyres working.

“I saw a glimpse of grip on that last lap, but it's really short lived, so there'll be a lot of analysis.

“Of course P7 isn't a great place to start here, but I will have to do the best I can to help the damage limitation tomorrow, and try and see if there's a way to move forward somehow.”

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