Mercedes denies "phantom" pitstop gamesmanship
Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff insists that the team didn’t indulge in gamesmanship with a “phantom” pitstop during the Italian Grand Prix.
The Mercedes mechanics went into the Monza pitlane when Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen made his crucial pitstop from the lead, but Lewis Hamilton did not follow him in.
Sky Sports F1 commentator Paul di Resta suggested Mercedes had come out in part to slow Raikkonen’s route to his pit box – which was immediately after that of Mercedes – but Wolff says that there was a genuine chance that Hamilton would have pitted.
“It wasn’t a phantom,” he said when asked by Motorsport.com. “We were prepared to do the opposite. If Kimi wouldn’t have pitted we would have done it. And insofar as we were prepared, it wasn’t a phantom.”
Hamilton himself acknowledged that a stop was a possibility at that time.
“Obviously I’d seen several different simulations of what could happen in the race,” he said. “Communication was really on point between myself and the team, back and forth.
"I was wondering if they were going to pull me in one lap before him, so I could undercut him, but that didn’t happen.”
F1's sporting regulations specify that crews can’t go into the pitlane unless their car is stopping, but race director Charlie Whiting says that the FIA has a laissez-faire approach.
“My feeling is and remains that it’s all part of the game,” he said. “We don’t like teams hanging around in the pitlane if they’re not actually doing a pitstop, if they come out as if they are going to do one.
"If they did it every lap, I think we’d have something to say.
“They may well have been thinking about stopping and change their mind. Unless someone does something overtly incorrect, I think we won’t do anything about that.”
However, Whiting acknowledged that it would be taken more seriously if it was was suspected that a team was trying to hamper a rival.
“If they do then we will have a look at it, if it’s clear that’s what they’re doing, to make it more difficult for another car to get in, and they had no intention of pitting," he added. "Then we might well want to investigate that.”
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