The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was an incredibly unlucky race for Lewis Hamilton who not only didn’t make it through to Q2 in qualifying, but thanks to a car stopping in the pit lane, was unable to get into the pits at the optimal time. Unfortunately, it now looks as though he was able to get in the pits, which would have made his weekend a lot more successful than it was.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo had issues with his car leading to it stopping at the entrance to the pits. This eventually resulted in the pit entrance being closed, but just as the Australian driver came to a stop, Hamilton was reminded by his engineer Peter Bonnington that he was within his “VSC and Safety Car window”.
With a virtual safety car deployed on lap 38 of the GP, the 7-time world champion was told to “box box” while also keeping “an eye on the pit lane”. This would have been the optimal time for Hamilton to swap out his worn hard tyres.
As Hamilton edged closer to the pit entry, he was told once again to pit, but Lewis responded saying it was “too late”, continuing down the straight away.
It’s unknown as to why Hamilton chose to ignore the team call for pitting, but some wonder whether it was because he could see Ricciardo getting out of the car. Others believe it was so there wasn’t a chance he’d get a penalty like he did during Monza 2020, crippling his race even further.
Hamilton finally pitted after the VSC had been lifted, dropping him down to 12th before finishing 10th.
He said after the race:
“I feel like I maximised everything. I don’t know if we did as a team.
“I saw Alonso slowing down. It was double yellow flags, so I didn’t push to overtake him, then Daniel was stuck in the pitlane, so I didn’t know if I could go in with a car sitting there.”
Toto Wolff, team principal of Mercedes, added his opinion, stating that it was a “confusing situation”:
“We told him to come in but there was a double yellow with one car slowing down, one stationary, so it was just an overall confusing situation”.
Nico Hulkenberg did manage to put his Aston Martin despite being 7 seconds behind Lewis at the time, cutting across the pit lane so to avoid the stranded car. Usually this would result in a penalty, but due to the car in the pit lane, was ignored.