Mercedes saw no clear benefit to using team orders during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, so instead let George Russell and Lewis Hamilton race.
Following a Safety Car restart in Jeddah, the situation, once Sergio Perez had got out in front with Max Verstappen following, was that Fernando Alonso held the final podium spot with Mercedes on the hunt.
Russell was in P4 ahead of Hamilton, but starting on the hard tyre had seemingly benefitted Hamilton as the Safety Car allowed for a cheap pit stop to take on the medium tyre. The vast majority of the runners, Russell included, were now on the hard compound.
Hamilton initially was right on the gearbox of his team-mate, Russell making his case to Mercedes for staying ahead based on the fact that Alonso had a five-second penalty for a grid box infringement. The problem was he had already served it, something Russell had not been told.
Ultimately no swapping of positions happened though, Russell claiming P4 with an advantage of five seconds over Hamilton at the line.
And as part of Mercedes’ post-Saudi Arabian GP debrief, technical director Mike Elliott was asked why team orders were not used by Mercedes?
He would explain that it was unclear which compound, the medium or the hard, would offer the best performance over that extended final stint, and so they did not see a benefit to swapping the cars.
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“First of all you’ve got to bear in mind that the Safety Car was pretty early so it was going to be a very long final stint,” Elliott began.
“Although Lewis came out on the faster tyre theoretically the medium, by the end of the stint the hard tyre was going to be a much quicker tyre. So, although Lewis could put pressure on George initially he wasn’t going to be able to do that at the end of the stint and so there probably wasn’t a clear which tyre is faster or slower if you look at the full stint length.
“We’ve always let our drivers race, that’s just the way we have operated as a team and we didn’t think we were going to be in a position where favouring one driver over the other would get us in a better position in the race. So, we just let them race.”
Hamilton heads into the next round, the Australian Grand Prix, as the lead Mercedes driver in the standings, sitting P5 on 20 points, with Russell a place and two points behind.