Lewis Hamilton might not have been too happy after finishing fifth at the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix. His chief title rival Max Verstappen retook the lead in the standings with six races left on the calendar.
However, Hamilton would have likely finished closer to P7 or P8 if he hadn't made the late-race pitstop, according to Mercedes' chief technical director James Allison. Speculating about the possible scenario on the Mercedes YouTube debrief, Allison said:
"Now, I think the optimum would have been (Lap) 36, 37. By the time we realized that we should have made that stop, we were looking to cut our losses. It was around lap 41 and that too would have been okay, that would have been a fourth-place type of stop."
Having missed the favorable pit-window, it was a worrying outcome predicted by the team's laptime chart as well as rapid tire falloff which prompted them to spring to action.
“In the end, we pushed on a bit longer than that, another nine laps with the tires degrading all the while. When we eventually did call Lewis in, it was because the laptime chart that we use to make our predictions was telling us that it was not looking good for hanging on until the end of the race...The car’s pace by then would be sufficiently poor that he wouldn’t hang on to the place that he was holding at the time and we were looking at something that was somewhere in the region of seventh, eighth place based on how the tires were progressively degrading.”
Lewis Hamilton faces a six-point deficit to Max Verstappen
Even though Valtteri Bottas winning the race softened the blow a bit for Lewis Hamilton, the reigning champion still lost the lead of the championship and now trails Max Verstappen by six points in the championship. In hindsight, the gap could have been much bigger had the Dutchman won the race but it could have been minimal had Lewis pitted at the right time.
In a championship that looks to be determined by incremental gains and losses, how much will this error cost Lewis Hamilton? Only time will tell. But with Verstappen surging as high as second place after starting last in Russia and Lewis Hamilton only managing to go from 11th to fifth, it will go down as a missed opportunity for both the defending champions.