Ferrari leader Mattia Binotto said that Mercedes won the race on Hermanos Rodriguez on October 27 thanks to the once-venturing pit strategy.
“When Leclerc first entered the pit, it was too risky for him to keep racing all the way”, Binotto said. “The problem is not only degradation but also wear. We have to analyze it based on data to make a decision. Mercedes getting into the pit once is a gamble and luck was on their side. People might say Ferrari should be risky, but it was hard to decide at that time. After the race, the analysis became much clearer.”
Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel started first at the Mexican Grand Prix, but only finished fourth and second. Leclerc enters the pit for the first time in round 15, with normal tires. By the 23rd round, Lewis Hamilton suddenly entered the pit with hard tires, not hiding his intention to race immediately to the end of the stage. In round 37, Vettel new pit to replace hard tires. He returned to the track after Hamilton and could not catch up to the opponent in the remaining 34 laps. Meanwhile, Leclerc entered the second pit in round 43 and also lagged behind.
Binotto said that if Vettel got into the pit right after Hamilton, the German driver would lose his lead. Ferrari has to let Vettel race 14 more rounds with old tires, in the hope that the car will appear safe to have a free-pit (entering the pit without losing much time compared to the opponent). But, that did not happen.
Mercedes’ decision to enter a one-time pit was strengthened from the test track, when they used hard tires at some point at FP2. That gives them more data on tire strength and wear during the main race. Meanwhile, Ferrari mainly tests normal tires and soft tires during test runs.