Mercedes believes that a call to run a low downforce set-up played a key part in allowing Lewis Hamilton to win the Belgian Grand Prix.
Hamilton held advantage from pole position at Spa but knew that rival Sebastian Vettel’s best chance of beating him would be on overtaking him on the run up to Les Combes.
That was why Mercedes elected to maximise straightline speed, even though trimming the wings would mean sacrificing performance for the twisty middle sector of the track.
But after Hamilton held off Vettel’s attempts to get past him – which included him nearly managing to draw alongside after the safety car restart – Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the setup choice was an important explanation for the triumph.
“We opted for a set-up that would be the quicker race set-up,” said Wolff. “We sacrificed downforce for quail, and it meant we left lap time on the table in the second sector in order to have a quicker car in sector one and sector [three] and that proved to be the right decision.
“Ferrari had more downforce on the car, more drag on the car, and that plus all the deployment modes that we had in our backpack made him stay in front.”
Safety car help
Wolff also suggested that the safety car period to clear debris after the two Force Indias collided actually helped Hamilton, even though the Briton was unhappy about it at the time.
Speaking about Hamilton criticisms of the decision to bring out the safety car, Wolff said: “I think he maybe didn’t see how much debris there was really on track.
“I think it was a safe call to do because there was bits of tyres on track and carbon parts lying on the track and you don’t want a high speed accident with a carbon bit sticking in the tyre.
“But I understand his frustration. If you’re trying to maintain that gap…