Three times in as many races Mercedes have botched the maths on the pitwall, the latest faux pas at the Chinese Grand Prix prompting team chief Toto Wolff to admit the shortcomings in the heat of battle which may have cost them a podium if not victory.
In Australia they fumbled badly, losing the race to Ferrari when Lewis Hamilton had everything under control. Next time out, in Bahrain they miscalculated how long Sebastian Vettel could last on soft tyres and once again they were denied victory.
Now, at the Chinese Grand Prix they neglected to pit Hamilton when the safety car came out and again they paid the price, as a result, for the first time since 2014 they have gone three races without a victory.
Wolff told reporters after the race in Shanghai, “We got it wrong, they got it right and they probably deserved to win.”
With regards to not pitting Hamilton when the opportunity arose, the Mercedes team boss conceded, “Afterwards you always look more clever. Now, 30 minutes after the race, yes we should have pitted him – you always look more clever.”
“We thought holding the track position would be beneficial – we discussed it in the morning – because as you saw in the first stint, there was no overtaking and also Raikkonen decided to stay out.”
“I think Valtteri would have deserved to win the race – he had a great day, great driving. The luck has been going against us in these first few races and I think again we had the safety car at the wrong moment.”
Perhaps the most pressing issue for the reigning F1 world champions is the half send gap that Ferrari enjoyed in qualifying, which has seen them lock-out the front row in the past two races.
Wold admitted, “The whole weekend we were just not good enough, everywhere! This weekend we were probably third and fourth, so we just need to get our act together.”
Unexpectedly, Mercedes are on the back foot early on this season thanks to some dubious strategy calls, suggesting that because of their dominant cars in previous seasons this was not an area they had to focus on.
Now that things are nip-and-tuck at the sharp end, deployment of race winning tactics in the heat of battle may well be their Achilles heel, which their rivals are sure to capitlaise on as they have in the first three races of the season.
Big Question: Is poor strategy the Achilles heel for Mercedes?