The winning swap: Lewis Hamilton surpasses another Michael Schumacher record
The onboard-camera footage of Lewis Hamilton’s relaxed left hand on top of the steering wheel even after all five red lights went out, implied he wasn’t going to challenge the red cars at the beginning of the race.
Instead, he would depend on the pitstops and a strategic over-cut with the possible help of a Safety Car period to give the reds a run for their money.
But, none of that came to be as the Italian team unnecessarily overcomplicated their race with a pre-planned, pre-race agreement that saw them lose out to the ever pursuing silver arrows duo.
On Saturday, Ferrari’s superior Q3 engine power, dubbed ‘jet mode’ by Hamilton, saw Charles Leclerc seal pole position while teammate Sebastian Vettel only managed P3 behind Hamilton’s Mercedes W10.
Post-qualifying, the Briton said he was hoping to ‘tow the life out of Leclerc’s Ferrari’ through the long straight down to Turn 2 on race day.
In retrospect, it was probably this comment that made the Scuderia’s strategy team focus all efforts on ensuring that Vettel jumps Hamilton at the start and safeguard a Ferrari one-two finish.
It was planned that Leclerc would hold his line to the left allowing Vettel to slipstream him to maximum effect while denying Hamilton the chance to do so. It worked.
But, Sebastian-the-quadruple-champion-Vettel then decided to take things into his own hands! Over the next few laps, frantic radio messages were exchanged between Leclerc, Vettel and the Ferrari pit wall.
The German refused to swap places with his teammate. Ferrari engineered the swap by under-cutting Vettel with an early pitstop for Leclerc.
Incredibly, this was a team deploying strategies against themselves, whilst all the time Hamilton and Mercedes were progressing.
Ironically, the Safety Car that Mercedes had pegged their strategies on appeared after Vettel’s power unit seized with electrical problems!
Both Hamilton and Bottas gained free pitstops during this period and stole the one-two finish that Ferrari coveted. Next up is the Japanese Grand Prix. A Hamilton favourite.
While the Ferrari SF90 will be spectacular through Suzuka’s famous 130R corner, it will be interesting to see if trust is restored between the teammates at the Scuderia.
The writer is a motorsports enthusiast who is covering the 2019 FIA Formula One™ season exclusively for Indulge.