'Wacky' setup direction may have backfired on Mercedes

Andrew Shovlin, head of trackside operations for Formula One, believes that a "wacky" approach to car setups may have cost Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes at Sunday's Styrian Grand Prix.Red Bull's Max Verstappen finished second to Hamilton at Austria's Red Bull Ring. Hamilton was the seven-time world champion. Mercedes suffered its fourth consecutive defeat since 2013.After eight races, Hamilton is now 18 points behind his Dutch counterpart. The next race, the Austrian Grand Prix is on the same track this weekend.Shovlin stated that Mercedes was "pretty realistic" in claiming their car was not the fastest, but was second and third. The fastest lap was also not a bad result.He said, "We just need a bit of help on the car for next race here."After eight rounds, Lewis Hamilton is leading Max Verstappen in the championship. Andrea Didato/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesIt is a challenging circuit, and Red Bull are usually strong here. We were exploring a very wild direction with the setup, which I believe was a better approach on the one lap."The only question is whether we have caused (tyre) degradation. We need to examine that in the next few days."Pirelli will be bringing a soft range of tyres for next Sunday's race. This could make a two-stop strategy much more appealing.Shovlin stated that Hamilton had been doing a lot in the simulator prior to the Styrian Grand Prix as Mercedes, who have ruled upgrades out as they prepare for major rule change in 2022, wanted to unlock more speed.Verstappen started the race on the front row with the Briton, but he fell further behind as Verstappen lapped all three cars behind him.Shovlin stated, "An important aspect of this year is adapting well on every track and we need to be a bit bold and original with setup direction.""We need to make the car faster and easier on the rear tires...so we will be focusing on those areas. It'll then be a matter of seeing if it can come back stronger in a few more days."