Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2017

Bottas: Team orders “the worst thing to hear”

2017 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Valtteri Bottas said the order from Mercedes to let his team mate pass during the Bahrain Grand Prix was the worst thing a driver could hear.

Team radio messages indicated Bottas received at least three separate instructions to let Lewis Hamilton by at different points during the race. The first was rescinded, but he followed the other two.

Lance Stroll, Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2017
2017 Bahrain GP in pictures
The final time Bottas let Hamilton through was to let his delayed team mate chase after race leader Sebastian Vettel.

“Honestly as a racing driver it’s maybe the worst thing you want to hear,” said Bottas after the race. “That’s how it is.”

“But for sure I did it because there was potential Lewis could challenge Sebastian. In the end it didn’t happen but the team tried which I completely understand. Personally it is tough but that’s life. I didn’t have enough pace today. We need to find the reasons why that was.”

Bottas said he had incurable rear grip problems in his Mercedes. “It was a really tricky race for me, struggling with the pace all through the race.”

“I think the first stint we found a bit of an issue with the tyre pressures so that explained the rear end struggle. Every stint after that I was just rear-limited and I was out of the tools in the steering wheel. So it was just oversteering all through the race and that’s why the pace was so slow which is a real shame because the target for today was a lot higher.”

However having taken his first F1 pole position yesterday, Bottas believes this was his strongest performance so far for Mercedes.

“I think this was overall the best weekend for me with the team but there is much more to come.”

2017 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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67 comments on “Bottas: Team orders “the worst thing to hear””

  1. It was the right thing to do for Mercedes, Hamilton was in with a (small) shot at victory. I do hope we won’t have to see this too often though, would be a shame if at the end we’d get a championship that consists of two drivers having received many points they did not deserve on pace.

    I don’t think much of todays orders as I’m fairly sure Hamilton would’ve gotten past anyway.

    1. “consists of two drivers having received many points they did not deserve on pace.”
      LOL. How many points will be provided to Vettel by Raikkonen?! Probably zero
      And Ferrari didn’t do anything last race when RAI was clearly holding up VET…

      1. Exactly, weak from Mercedes. And far weaker from Bottas for not having any backbone. Would this be Hamilton himself, Verstappen, Vettel or Alonso they would’ve said “no!”. He is now back to being 2nd driver at Mercedes forever, the Massa/Barrichello during Schumi’s era. He should just quit Mercedes after this year and go back to Williams or even Renault.

        1. I think a lot of those drivers would move over if they were 2 seconds a lap slower and their team mate had a vague shot at victory, not least because the pass was inevitable anyway.

      2. Well, Kimi does let Sebastian to pass himself, but when they clearly on different strategy (Seb on fresh tyres vs. Kimi didn’t stop yet). But today Lewis and Bottas was in quite the same conditions, both made their final stops and was running to the finish on these tyres. And there was no chance for Lewis to win – everybody in Mercedes know it. Even if new tyres are not “designed to degrade”, they still do degrade some, so no way Lewis could keep this pace on every lap til the chequered flag, and even if he did so – Seb could just switch from running in the safe mode.

        So I don’t understand this move, they should let them fight, or at least switch positions back, as other teams do in these situations (when you don’t have the pace to fight the car in front of you, but your teammate behind you and thinks he has the pace). Ferrari didn’t do this in China, when Seb was behind Kimi, and it was nice to see. This year Ferrari looks great as a team – good work, clean strategy and no empty words.

        1. Martin O. Powell
          17th April 2017, 8:27

          As a team it makes perfect sense, put the fastest driver at the time in a position to put pressure on the driver in front, and maybe capitalise on possible mistakes. Being 20 seconds behind, Bottas was in no position to do either, but at 5.8 seconds Hamilton was. Mercedes was going for the win.

    2. Martin Powell
      18th April 2017, 7:28

      Anon, your knowledge of this sport and all its complexities seems to be outweighed by your personal dislike for Mr. Hamilton. This is a team sport and they will always try and put the best driver at the time in a position to score the most points.

      You seem to be confusing single lap pace, with race pace. The whole of the paddock along with every commentator has agrees, that Ferrari has the fastest cars in race trim, and race pace is the name of the game. It’s not clear to me why you believe, that the experts are wrong, and you are correct?

  2. The only mistake Mercedes did this race was pitting Bottas ahead of Hamilton and it cost them dearly. Im glad they didnt repeat that mistake later in the race.

    1. Since they had to double stack them there wasn’t anything they could do.

  3. Poor guy. It’s race three and his position will never change. Real shame, I think the pace is there.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      16th April 2017, 18:47

      @hahostolze
      I feel sorry for him too. I think he will have easily managed 2nd if he didn’t have his issues at the start or later on. Maybe even a win. But I do feel his tyres and Mercedes’s stratagy did affect his chance of achiving this.

      1. They did and we’ll never know quite what was possible. But to me at least, once he wasn’t first it never felt like Mercedes intended him to finish ahead of Hamilton.

        1. It was once Mercedes realised his race pace was 1 second a lap slower han what Hamilton could manage.

    2. What do you mean “the pace was there”? He was clearly holding up Hamilton a lot. In fact he held up a whole train of cars from the start of the race. Even the Red Bulls were pushing.

      1. He got pole. Clearly the pace was there in terms of him and the car. On race day something was off but surely pole proves the pace was there?

        1. The pace was there in qualifying. The pace wasn’t there in the race.

          As always, qualifying pace and race pace are two different worlds.

  4. Never nice to see but realistically, Mercedes are always going to want to get the best out of each race and Bottas just wasn’t quick enough today.

    Had he been faster, I’d have totally feelings about it… but then, had that been the case, the situation wouldn’t have arisen at all.

    1. So two separate issues on VB’s car had nothing to do with it? Come on

      1. He never said that Bottas’s pace was down to him, just that the whole package was slow.

    2. It was great watching Hamilton and Roseberg battle, but the days of easy Mercedes wins are over.

      As a Ferrari showed today, the top podium step is where the points are, and they got more points than Merc.

      Merc needs to maximize every race result, for both the constructors and drivers championship. A slow driver is going to get an order. There really was a pace difference at the end and time was running out. So the last order made sense.

  5. Spineless guy, now that I was starting to like him. He might as well go home.

    1. I hesitate to call him ‘spineless,’ but yeah, I was kind of disappointed how quickly he obeyed. I rather doubt Lewis, Seb or Max would have so meekly complied in a similar situation. There is a selfish killer instinct you find in a champion, and Valtteri didn’t show it.

      1. When you take into account that he is under a 1 year contract then it doesn’t seem so spineless of him…right now he has to compensate for his lack of race pace by accommodating to the teams needs

    2. Yeah he should have been selfish and disobeyed the team, that would have helped him make a great image within the team, and Merc would have handed him a 10 year contract right there at the finish line !

  6. When Hamilton stormed by towards the end of the race, it was nothing to talk about, with 1,5-2 seconds different in pace would have earned Hamilton the overtake in 1-2 laps with DRS. But the time loss after the safety car behind Bottas cost him a lot, but a team order in that phase of the race might not have been appropriate.

    1. Agreed, the first one is definitely down to personal opinion. I fear that this might become common when cars are ruining similar strategies due to the difficulty of following, it didn’t look like Vettel would have been able to pass the slow Bottas either despite the pace advantage. I really don’t want to see orders throughout the season, but teams will be willing to use them to increase chances of victory. The second order, as you said, wouldn’t have made difference.

    2. Hamilton already lost the race when Vettel got past him. Then Vettel undercut a slow driving Bottas.

      That’s the trouble with a slow team mate ahead. They won’t let you take the stop first and by the time Bottas took his stop the damage was already done. Even with the benefit of the safety car he’d lost that much time to Vettel already that Vettel took the lead.

  7. Bottas has to dry swallow that. When at Williams he wanted Williams to tell Mass let him by when he was 0.1 s faster for a couple of laps only. now He was as fast as a lapped car and he expected Mercedes to let them fight? Hamilton would have overtook him just a couple of corners ahead, on the main straight.
    I don’t think he’s got all the speed people say he has, also on the qualifying he was pole because Hamilton made a mistake.

    1. Apparently on Hamiltons last qualifying lap, his mistake only cost him a a tenth somewhere near the pe ultimate corner or something…he actually lost 2 tenths or so for pole because his DRS didn’t work on the straight in the middle sector

  8. Unfortunately for VB i think this is just the beginning. Mercedes have probably already already decided, to win the drivers and potentially constructors championships, they will have to back one horse. LH is clearly the surer bet. I expect if results continue in the same vein, between SV and LHthat it will quicklybe established that VB is the support driver. Realistically, i believe, itis the sensible thing for them to do.

    1. As much as I hate to hear it, I feel as though if I was in Mercedes position I would do the exact same thing, Bottas is good but Hamilton just seems to be more consistent thus far (as well as being with the team for a few years and having three world championships). I feel as though if he stayed at Mercedes next season he would be much fiercer competition for Hamilton but since he is only on a year contract, we will just have to wait and see. Anyway, we are only on race three so maybe we should just give it time.

  9. After the race, BOT sort of had that look of the little brother who was put in his place by his big brother. That’s too bad…

  10. Mercedes held back for a long time before finally taking the decision. They had a chance and had to go for it. I feel sorry for Bottas but he has to realise that mid feild teams are comfortable with picking points, but the top teams are out for the win. He shouldn’t look at this as a slight, but that he needs more work on his car setup and race pace. Even after qualifying, Di Resta was already saying Bottas will have wear issues during the race.

    1. Completely agree @ooliver

  11. Mercedes should have done it sooner. VT pace today was shocking right from the start.

  12. So this year Bottas got the wrong side of the garage ;)

  13. Well hey welcome to the year. I’m sure Bottas was already told the highest he’ll ever finish all year is second. It’s a shame, why even send out two cars?

  14. Wow! Just wow! With almost unanimous approval of a driver swap vs an honest battle, I wonder, where are all those people who were so vocal about Hockenheim 2010? What about ‘if he is faster, then he should overtake on merit’ that was so popular after Abu Dhabi 2016? Double standards much?
    If after yesterday’s qualifying there was a hope that this year’s championship could be more than a two-way battle, Merc have exposed today that, as far as they’re concerned, they won’t let it happen.
    With that sort of attitude, no wonder Rosberg chose to quit while ahead. Poor Bottas, hope he’s still got options after this season’s over. Anthony Hamilton did not call his son a career-killer for nothing.

    1. I ask you, if you run a team and you saw how Bottas performed today, will you be confident you have the right driver and be happy to sign him up the following year, when all the factory effort depends on his driving.
      All the teams have had cause to swap drivers and with good reason.
      Today was not Bottas’ day.

      1. And what was wrong exactly with his performance at the point when he was screwed by the team? He was driving home solid second, BOTH times he was ordered to let Hamilton pass. (Apparently, there even was a third time, I wonder when that happened. Hopefully, race transcript will tell.) He somehow was fast enough to end up ahead of Hamilton after the final round of pit stops. And considering Lulu’s inability to pass, and his penalty, second is where Bottas would have ended up. Same points for the team, so why let the other driver pass? Hamilton might have had a shot for a win, some would say? Actually no, he did not, but that is not important right now. He was, let’s say, given that shot by letting him thru. But he blew it and did not catch Vettel. So, did Hamilton return second place to Bottas on the last lap? No way, obviously that wasn’t even a passing thought to him. So, at the end of the day, what did Merc do? They took the points from one driver and gave it to the other, who was not able to get those points on merit. So, unless Hamilton retires, it will never be Bottas’ day.

        1. I would not say that Mercedes took Bottas’s points, especially the second time because Hamilton had such a pace advantage that he would have been pass away within a few laps. With the first time that is a matter of opinion but Hamilton was quicker so you can at least see why Mercedes did it.

          1. Oversteer (@oversteer)
            I’m sorry but F1 does not work that way, there is no such thing as ‘he would have passed him anyway’. The team made the decision to swap drivers despite that fact that holding places would have given them exactly the same amount of points. So, an honest pass did not happen. That’s the definition of taking from one and giving to the other. And of course I see why Merc did it, it is clear as a sky. The problem is, this is bad for the sport, and bad for the team’s image. That’s why Ferrari didn’t do it in China, although they had even better reason, coz Vettel was hurt not by his dirty driving, but by a badly timed safety car after Giovinazzi’s antics.

            In my personal opinion, it is perfectly ok to have a No.1 and No.2 driver, this model can work wonders if you have the right driver pairing. What I find appaling is when a team runner blatantly lies that he lets drivers fight, while imposing team orders right from the start. And I find equally appaling when the hypocritic media has a field day and a rage storm when one team imposes team orders, but sees absolutely no problem when another team does so.

    2. Remember those F1F “Real Racers Don’t Need Team Orders” mugs from 2010? I bet we won’t be seeing them at the end of this season.

      But I agree. Real racers don’t need team orders. Nor cranes. Nor weaving. Nor lying to the stewards. They shouldn’t need starting lessons, either.

      1. Not Mexican cross-country racing, nor overaking the SC, nor pitstop entry malfeasance. Go hire a crane again, and get a rope this time.

    3. There IS quite a difference between those moves. In Hockenheim despite what Smedley told Massa on the radio Alonso was NOT faster than Massa, certainly not fast enough to pass. And then the team just told Massa to give up a win, it did not change anything for the constructors championship.

      Here, Bottas was clearly not as fast as Hamilton was. First because of his tyres maybe, in the later part, with Hamilton on new tyres, the difference was large enough that Hamilton would have almost certainly passed Bottas anyway. Just by arranging it they made sure Hamilton lost less time in the hope of managing to catch and have a shot at Vettel, attempting to win MORE points for the whole team. That was the right desicion from the team. And I don’t think Bottas would have gained anything from resisting it.

      1. If Bottas was clearly much slower than Hamilton, then surely Hamilton didn’t need team orders to get by Bottas.

        Just three days ago Hamilton was saying he doesn’t want team orders or to be the number one driver.

        He said: “It (team orders) happens at Ferrari and it has for many, many years.” Also, “But it won’t happen with us. And I don’t want it to happen. I think I can manage without a decision like that.”

        Turns out he couldn’t manage without team orders.

        What amuses me with Hamilton is how he’s quite happy to embrace team orders when they benefit him, but always refuses to abide by team orders when it benefits his teammate.

        Hungary 2014 when he and Rosberg were out of sync on strategy because Hamilton had made a mistake and spun off early in the race, Hamilton tells the team “I’m not letting him past me; if he gets close enough to overtake he can overtake.”

        After the race Hamilton said “I was in the same race as him. If I’d let him past he’d have had the opportunity to pull away. I was very, very shocked that the team would ask me to do that to be able to better his position.”

        That cost Mercedes a chance of victory in Hungary 2014. Abu Dhabi 2016 he was aghast at the idea that the team would instruct him how to drive.

        But in Bahrain 2017, or Monaco 2016, he’s quite happy to have teammates sacrifice their place in the championship for his benefit.

        Hamilton has always been the favoured son at Mercedes. Go back Malaysia 2013, Hamilton’s second race at Mercedes, and Rosberg was issued a team order forbidding him to fight Hamilton for the podium at the end of the race despite being significantly faster.

        What happened yesterday is no different to Germany 2010, Austria 2002 (was in fact legal in 2002), Sepang 1999 when Schumacher gave the win to Irvine. In fact it’s worse than Germany 2010 or Austria 2002 because we’re only three races into the championship.

        1. I suppose Hamilton also said last year he doesn’t care who his teammate is, but now he’s saying Alonso won’t be at Mercedes next year under any circumstance. Seems to change with the wind.

          Any way, pressure is on Hamilton. Had the best car last year. In fact the best car in the history of the sport and couldn’t win the championship. This year he still has the best car, but Vettel has managed to win 2/3 races despite Mercedes even reverting to team orders to help Hamilton.

          Alonso might get Hamilton’s seat if Lewis fails to win the championship despite having the best car on the grid two years running.

          1. Hahaha, Alonso really is never going to Mercedes even if Hamilton quits from Mercedes simply because they don’t like the trouble that comes with Alonso…not the trouble that Alonso would give his teammate but rather the team itself….over the years a lot of paddock members have discussed as to the negative vibe Alonso can set in sometimes at race weekends as well as his stupidly high ego that doesn’t make it easy to work with him and above all the lack of class…he publicly made too many complaints when he was at Ferrari…Mercedes do like stability not to mention Ham was signed during Ross Brawns time say Nico retired last year while Hamilton & Vettel were free agents then I believe Toto would have picked Vettel

  15. I just hope reaction will be similar to when Ferrari were doing that. I remember there wasn’t a big approval when Massa was letting Alonso go.

    1. Back then it wasn’t allowed. Perhaps that’s a small difference?

      Letting Alonso past because he was faster only slightly after they told Massa to tune his engine down and when it wasn’t allowed to give such orders was indeed a shambles.

      Hamilton actually was a lot faster. Indeed they could have just let them fight and Hamilton would have most likely gotten past. But then he would really never have a chance to catch Vettel.

      1. Booooo

      2. If Hamilton was a lot faster than Bottas then surely he didn’t need Mercedes instructing his teammate to move over for him?

        Why was Hamilton stuck behind Bottas for so many laps if he was so much faster than him.

  16. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    16th April 2017, 21:15

    I don’t understand people that are saying Bottas’s pole lap wasn’t a strong point. Saying it was because Hamilton made a mistake isn’t the main reason why he got it. He got pole because he was faster than Hamilton’s time which was set on his 1st run. Even though it was quite likely, we don’t know if he will have beaten him if he hadn’t have made that mistake in the final sector. Hamilton’s fastest time looked to have no errors in it. And if people are saying Bottas was given pole because of Hamilton’s mistake, than it shows that Hamilton sometimes isn’t as strong in qualifying as many think he is. He does sometimes make mistakes. (Baku last year) And in this race weekend, he made a mistake in qualifying and the race too. Bottas may not have had a very strong looking race, but he has certainly made less errors than Hamilton this weekend. After all, finishing 3rd just one place behind Hamilton was the best he could have possibly achieved considering the team orders he was given. So considering he had issues with his tyre temperatures, he didn’t do badly at all and I would say it is his possibly his best race so far with this team. I just think that he will have been stronger if he didn’t have the tyre issues.

    1. The first run is more of a banker lap. So you can go flat out the second time.

      Sure you can blame Hamilton and Vettel for messing up their real flying lap, but still.

    2. @thegianthogweed +1 to what you said about the qualifying. He was faster because his lap time was lower, and that’s that.

      It’s like when people discredit Hulkenberg for his pole in Brazil 2010. In the end he was the only one to not make the mistake so he was he one who was fastest, and that’s how it works. The same with qualifying in Bahrain.

    3. I agree with your view on that pole lap too. Bottas was faster. Full stop.

      Surely one of the reasons why both Hamilton and Vettel made mistakes in their second laps was because they felt they had to really dig deep to get the lap out of their car. That is exactly where drivers are most prone to making mistakes, when they feel the pressure. Had Hamilton not made his mistake (and driven a blistering lap), I would still have given Bottas credit for putting up a good fight for pole.

      1. Apparently there’s a report somewhere that Hamilton didn’t have DRS on the straight which cost him 2 tenths in middle sector and his mistake that he made on the penultimate corner cost him just about a tenth which resulted in him losing the pole

  17. Flashback to China a week ago. Vettel was in a fight back to a possible win yet he was stuck behind Kimi who in turn was stuck behind Ric. Ferrari asked him if he wanted them to ask Kimi to move over but he said he did not. He passed Kimi on merit after losing a lot of time behind him. Could he have won was he not delayed? Who knows, but rather a deserved second than the team nagging a second place for you in my opinion. Yes, Hamilton could probably easily have passed Bottas today for second, but that would then be a well deserved second finish. I would have preferred Mercedes to let their drivers fight it out on track as they always so honorably claimed they will let them do.

    Honestly, my respect for Mercedes took a huge dive today. No more “let them race” it seems? Seems Bottas will be the clear no. 2 from this point. He should rather seek a place as Kimi’s replacement.

  18. That’s the thing Bottas didn’t match Hamilton’s pace, i suspect car setup wasn’t quite right which didn’t help. Your points about the cars Hamilton has had access too are pointless (suspect not correct either), you still need to bring the car home and just because you have a competitive car doesn’t guarantee race wins.

  19. Hamilton would of passed him anyway. Bottas is fast but Hes not going to beat a Hamilton while in the same car

  20. Well, Rosberg suffered team orders in early 2013, and it didn’t end too badly for him.

  21. Toto said there were issues with the Mercedes rig that sets the tyre pressures on the grid, if so why didn’t Lewis have the same over-pressure as Valtteri?

  22. As if Hamilton would have complied if the roles were reversed. Or if the order would even have been given..

    Shame. So much for the Mercedes values.

  23. Team orders twice in one race.What a shame.
    And all the complaining the Hamilton fans did last year about Mercedes “sabotaging” him.

  24. In this case team orders make total sense. Team made a great setup error on Bottas car, and thus had no chance of driving faster than Lewis.

    Letting him by twice was good, if they had done it much sooner Lewis would be in range for fighting for victory.

    Without letting him past, eventually he would get past and we would have same result. But in this case Mercedes maximized their chances on victory.

  25. A little too early in the season for team orders. Plus, Lewis has said severally that he doesn’t want number 1 status, and I believe him. Mercedes just need to sort their strategy out, and get rid of the little errors they are allowing to creep into their game. Ferrari are great on strategy and now have a great car, so even team orders won’t help Mercedes unless their strategy is sorted. Which Merc gets the win should not matter – they should just focus on bringing them in 1-2 or worst case 1-3 for the constructors’ title. Let the drivers race.

  26. What happened in that Hungarian race between Hamilton and Rosberg and in the Mercedes team in Bahrain, shows Mercedes can not think on their feet. In Hungary, the race had been reset, both drivers were fast and in a position to fight for the win, but their strategy decided before the race, and nullified by Hamilton’s performance and perhaps a safety car, meant a realistic strategy was needed. But Mercedes now wanted Hamilton to go on very slow tyres when he had a brand new set of a faster tyre.
    In Bahrain, Bottas was getting slower lap after lap, Mercedes twice delayed swapping their cars until it was too late, which cost them the win.
    It may appear Hamilton doesn’t obey team orders at Mercedes, but the reality is that, Mercedes have always given him those orders when they appeared to be very daft. Because while at Mclaren, Hamilton easily obeyed those orders because they were sensible.

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