Mercedes: Lap 1 Safety Car likely cost Hamilton Spa win

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Mercedes have claimed the early Safety Car likely prevented Lewis Hamilton from winning the Belgian Grand Prix.

The British driver crossed the finish line just 0.9s behind victor Charles Leclerc as he rapidly closed in on the Ferrari in the final laps at Spa-Francorchamps.

During the race, Hamilton was queried Mercedes' strategy of staying out longer than both cars ahead and even team boss Toto Wolff suggested maybe Lewis was left out a little too long.

But in the team's Pure Pitwall YouTube video, trackside engineering chief Andrew Shovlin doubts it was crucial.

“We stopped Lewis a lap later than Leclerc," he noted.

“Now because Lewis was out on his older tyres, he lost a bit of time there and Leclerc was on fresh tyres and could build that gap whilst we stayed out on track, so it gave Lewis a bit more of a gap to close down.

“But we came very close to getting into an overtaking position but the race was just a little bit too short for us.

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“Had we gone one lap earlier, two laps earlier, would we have been in a better position to overtake [Leclerc]?

“Certainly we would have been closer on track, but our tyres were going off, as were Leclerc’s. We would have had older tyres and a bit less performance.

“It’s a very difficult question to answer but as always if what you try didn’t work, you’re always thinking you should have done something a bit differently.”

Instead of blaming the strategy then, the Mercedes chief pointed to the Safety Car at the start, when Max Verstappen went into the barrier at Eau Rouge and Carlos Sainz came to a halt at the Bus Stop.

“The big factor there though was if we had not had that Safety Car at the start, the whole race would have been four laps longer," he said.

“That would have probably given us the distance, the time for Leclerc’s tyres to degrade, that we could have perhaps made a move stick.”