Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2018

Analysis: Why Bottas couldn’t pass Vettel – or catch him sooner

2018 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Did Valtteri Bottas blow his chance to win the Bahrain Grand Prix?

The Mercedes driver spent the second half of the race closing on leader Sebastian Vettel. But he didn’t get close enough to try a move until the final lap.

Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Bahrain International Circuit, 2018
Bahrain Grand Prix in pictures
Could he have caught the Ferrari sooner? Bottas said the team was initially unsure whether he needed to, as to begin with they were convinced Vettel was going to make another pit stop. However they began to realise Ferrari had scrapped its plan to bring Vettel in again.

“Maybe 15, 20 laps before the end I got the information that said he’s definitely going to run a one-stop as well and most likely will struggle in the end,” said Bottas. “Before that we were 80% sure he was going to go with a two-stop.

“I even asked the team at the beginning of the stint if they wanted me to catch him up or try and make the quickest way to the flag and manage the tyres and I got the information that he’s most likely going to be a two-stop. So I had no rush at the beginning of the stint.”

Deciding how hard Bottas should push at this stage was a double-edged-sword for Mercedes. The more they increased his pace, the more life they would take from the tyres. “If I’d pushed earlier at the some points it’s difficult to say if it would have helped, if I would have struggled more at the end,” he said.

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As the race chart below shows from the moment Kimi Raikkonen came in for his second pit stop, Bottas began to drift away from Vettel, losing around four seconds. Then with 15 laps to go he began closing the gap:

Bottas’s pursuit of Vettel was also compromised by a problem which was a theme of Mercedes’ weekend – overheating tyres.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2018
Hamilton pushed his medium tyres harder
“Pretty much all the race, 80% of the race, I was stuck with not being able to push more because of the tyre overheating. I was driving to a temperature limit and if you go over it for two corners in a row you lose a lot in the third corner. I think that is a limitation we have with the car.”

Should Mercedes have told Bottas to increase his pace sooner? Lewis Hamilton said the team needed to work on its communication after the race and Bottas also felt “there are things we could have done better.”

“For us we need to know exactly how much to push and so on,” he added. “You always learn something from every race, for sure we can learn from this one.” The crucial question for Mercedes will be how much life was left in Bottas’s tyres compared to those of Hamilton, who also ran the medium tyres in the final stint and took 19 seconds out of Vettel in fewer laps.

Despite the delay to his pursuit of Vettel and losing more time in traffic (“with the cars this year it’s again more difficult to follow”, he said) Bottas was within two seconds of Vettel with five laps to go. On lap 52 he was over a second quicker than Ferrari, and it seemed certain he would get close enough to pounce.

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Yet despite Vettel’s lap times getting slower over the final laps, Bottas was unable to make a move:

Both drivers were on very worn tyres by this point. Bottas was using a more durable compound which was two laps’ fresher than Vettel, yet he had the disadvantage of running in the slipstream of another car.

“The last three laps was getting really tricky on the tyres for me as well. About five laps before the end following him was actually starting to affect [the car]. “Lap five, four, three the tyres started to switch off and lap three, two, one was very difficult.”

Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel, Bahrain International Circuit, 2018
Vettel stayed ahead and took the win
It wasn’t until the halfway around the penultimate lap that Bottas finally got close enough to use his DRS to attack Vettel. As the final lap began they were separated by seven-tenths of a second. As the cars hammered into the braking zone for turn one, Bottas decided the Ferrari was too far ahead to risk a lunge.

“I was watching him, see if he is going to leave any door open or if he was expecting or not expecting me to try something. Before he started to brake he turned the car so he was expecting and being ready to block the overtake so I understood there was no possibility.

“You could always try to go for it, bang the wheels and have a crash but I think it was just a bit too far. Not that much, only a few metres away and could have gone for it but it was just a little bit too far.”

Those hoping for a dramatic last-lap tussle between the pair were to be disappointed. For Bottas there was arguably more than just a race win at stake in that moment – he needs to make his case for a third season at Mercedes, and snatching a win from Ferrari would have been the perfect way to do it.

He intends to spend some time thinking about whether he should have been a bit tougher with Vettel.

“That is something I definitely need to analyse,” he said. “But once you start to brake late you can’t any more really change the line. I braked later than normal and tried to see if that could be enough for me to dive inside. But in the middle of braking I realised that wasn’t going to be possible and then it’s too late to back off.”

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Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2018 F1 season

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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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85 comments on “Analysis: Why Bottas couldn’t pass Vettel – or catch him sooner”

  1. Just can’t help but think Ham, Alo, Vet, or either Red Bull drivers would have closed the gap much sooner and forced Vettel to destroy his tires. 5 laps is a sizeable difference in tire life but doesn’t fully explain why Ham could make progress every lap but Bottas fell back.

    1. That’s why some drivers are World Champions and others are not. It’s not something Bottas is missing, is something more in the hands and heads of Ham, Alo, Vet.

      1. Agree M,Bottas will never be a champion,he,s quite happy finishing 2nd or third,he had the room at that corner to dive in and unsettle vettel who just wanted to finiish infront of hamilton,he should have thought of his team mate.

        1. I think bottas is similar to raikkonen, who says he can’t ever be a world champion? With the right circumstances he might, massa got close too.

      2. @m-bagattini l agree.. Bot seems like a nice guy but kinda like DC he lucked a drive in the fastest car because of unusual circumstances (senna’s death) though DC never seemed to have the extra 10th against his team mates too be a WC, at this stage it doesnt seem Bot is good enough to hold his seat at Merc.

    2. I think this point is correct. Bottas missed getting DRS a lap earlier by about a tenth of a second, I think – which another driver might well have found.
      I think Vettel would likely have succumbed to an extra lap of DRS attack – which is not to discount a truly excellent drive from him.

      1. It was a thousandth of a second…

        1. And it was painful to watch. How could he have not pushed a bit harder to get within DRS? He’s simply not in the same tier as HAM, VET, RIC and VER.

  2. The issue was he didn’t go for it, and he didn’t not go for it. He kind of did a bit of both, and therefore scuppered his chances.

    If he went for it and took a lunge, it would be 50-50.

    If he had decided against it and maintained his racing line, I think he would have got Vettel down the following straight through better traction alone.

    By doing a bit of both, I think he ruined his chance of a move. Either way, was plenty of fun to watch, and with the right track (ie. quite wide, fairly long braking zones) and tyre allocation (this is a fairly important ingredient), you can still race fairly close together. This is of course, a band-aid solution, but with some decent modern track layouts with have overtaking in mind, and a good tyre allocation, we could have some fun races.

    1. from memory, Bottas does not have the same wheel-to-wheel experience at this track in turns 1-4. the optimum place would have been turn 4 after acing the exit from the first corners. we’ve seen a lot of action there over the last few years (hamilton and rosberg in 2014 being the best example), but if you’ve not been in that position then it wouldn’t be forefront in your mind. having said that, he’s been racing for years/decades so he should have figured this out anyway.

  3. That’s interesting, if Räikkönen had stayed out and put pressure on Bottas, would Bottas have caught Vettel sooner and passed him?

    As exciting as all this was, though, it’s another race decided by tyres and computer calculated decisions on how fast to drive. Not a race decided by drivers pushing hard

    1. @strontium, in many ways, I found it more interesting to see the different teams experiment with different strategies.

      Equally, there were races in the past where a driver would be celebrated for their calculated drive to the finish and being able to judge their tyre wear – Prost pulled off several masterful victories using that approach, and was lauded for his brilliance, yet now apparently such behaviour is not fashionable in F1.

      1. So we have Prost to blame for the dreary racing in F1, do we Anon ? I have to agree with @strontium, not to mention that Prost was not forced to use inferior tyres.

  4. Maybe the only thing Bottas could have done was to have a better turn 1 exit by not trying anything there and wait for turn 4? But it’s probably easy to say on hindsight from my sofa.

  5. This race events will be very important in my opinion for the Chinese GP tactic wise.

    Both teams will be on the look-out to see what the best strategy might be. And the Mercs are really good on the harder rubber

    It is a shame still that even though they were in clean air Bottas wasn’t able to push his tyres because they over-heated, the working window of the tyres is still too small and they can’t exploit the car’s performance

  6. I’m sensing that the F1 world is being a bit harsh on Bottas here. Yes, he probably could have had a lunge, but had he taken Vettel and himself out with a failed lunge the fallout would have been way worse for him than it is just finishing second. He was a long way behind, a few other drivers may have been able to make it stick but it wasn’t the percentage play. He did the right thing, he tried to keep his powder dry to try again later in the lap but unfortunately for him that chance didn’t materialise. The move was not on, and suggesting it was (which a lot of fans are doing) is a bit disingenuous.

    The real issue here is that Mercedes, (over)confident that Vettel would stop again, took a few laps too long to give the instruction to Bottas to close the gap. Bottas was managing the tyres but had he been told to either (a) not let the gap grow too much or (b) close sooner, it would have put Vettel under more pressure and possibly have meant that he ran into tyre issues sooner.

    For me this race highlights once again that, when faced with a battle with another team Mercedes strategists, used to dealing with intra-team battles, are found wanting.

    1. I have to agree with that @geemac; and indeed, both of these two races show that Mercedes strategies have become a bit too reliant on being fast enough to overcome initial caution, and that has lost them (a chance of) victory twice in a row, as they do not have that might anymore. Will be interesting to see that chance (or not?) in the next races. Will we see mercedes trying to ‘calm’ it’s drivers only for them (or only HAM?) not listening?

      1. @bosyber @geemac and why does this happen? Maybe because they have to preserve cars and engines until the thermal end of the universe?

        1. Yes, that is undoubtedly (part of) why the team is being cautious @m-bagattini, but I think if they win the WCC,WDC but need to take an engine penalty, they are better of than when they don’t win and don’t need a penalty. If you are ahead, you can afford to turn everything down, but here they need to get the points on board first, I think.

    2. Evans Armitage
      10th April 2018, 14:47

      Agreed about Bottas being harshly blamed. We don’t know what the team was telling Bottas to do. The published messages were more about what the team wanted Lewis to do.

  7. The Mercedes is not the best car to be following another. This has been said a few times. Recall how Hamilton was not able to pass Vettel in Melbourne in the previous race; yes, I know that Vettel than had fresher tyres and the track was different, but there was something that seemed to go off with the Merc’s aerodynamics when it closed the gap with an almost equally fast car.

    Remember while considering ‘if onlys’ that if the 2 Red Bulls and Raikkonen were still on the track, Ferrari would have chosen a different strategy for race leader Vettel and the rest would have influenced each other in several different ways depending on their positions. For that matter, they, especially Merc, would have tried something different too.

    Race strategy constantly changes depending on how things are going. In Bahrain on Sunday Merc appeared to have made the right call for Bottas but Ferrari countered by risking Vettel on a one-stopper and Vettel’s brilliant driving on worn tyres put paid to Merc’s plan.

    1. they are not used to that scenario

    2. @loup-garou I think the Mercedes not being to follow closely issue is a bit overblown. Bottas was able to close up right onto Vettel’s gearbox and I think with one more lap he could have gotten him. If it was an issue that played out in Australia, there was no sign of it playing out in Bahrain. Of course by that point Bottas was potentially about 2 seconds per lap faster than Vettel, and with that kind of speed difference any car could overtake any other in Bahrain.

      Ferrari held on thanks to Vettel’s tyre preservation. They would probably have been in a bit better shape had they fitted the mediums as well. And Mercedes would have probably had a better shot at the win if they had let Bottas pile the pressure on Vettel from the beginning of the second stint, Vettel would have had to push his tyres more and probably pit, and that could have even handed the win to Hamilton.

      1. Vettel’s tyres to his own admission were ten laps over where they were performing well. so saying the merc follows well because Botas caught up isn’t balanced really. Botas caught up quickly because of Vettel’s tyres being off. Time will tell if the merc’s can come from behind a lot more often but Ferrari really got the strategy wrong going for the softs. remember Raikkonen was putting on super softs in his second stop, That was the plan for Vettel as well. even though in qualifying the harder compound tyres were as fast as the softer ones in this race, i.e. Hamiltons fastest lap in qualifying was on softs. therefore thinking that they could accrue such a large lead for Vettel to return after pit stop two to no. 1 spot was short sited as the super softs weren’t even 2 seconds a lap faster. I think more should be made of Ferrari choosing poor pit stop strategies and getting lucky at the end…

    3. Max couldn’t overtake the Haas in Melbourne, so it wasn’t just Hamilton. If anything what it showed was, the Mercedes was still able to close whilst in dirty air.

      1. At least Max tried.

  8. The thing I find a bit disappointing is that the drivers are again relying on the pit wall to make decisions on how to drive the car.

    The attempt made by the FIA to limit “coaching” – why abandon it. It worked to a degree (remember drivers having problems and not being able to get help)

    This whole, “we need you to drive to low 34’s” stuff is rubbish – let/make the drivers work it out by the feel of the car under them. Maybe then we’ll have some real racing instead of these carefully stage managed laps.

    1. I think that the team prefers it that way @dbradock, but, I can easily see at least Hamilton, and hopefully Bottas too, not putting up with that for much longer as it, arguably, has cost them the chance of going for victory twice in a row now already. At Ferrari, Kimi is also getting frustrated at what his team tell him (or not) about strategy, and Vettel has been active in deciding the strategy for a while, as needed, so let’s see if this year will make that a requirement. Would be good, I agree.

    2. I agree.

      A simple solution which isn’t any where near as convoluted would be one-way radio communication – driver to pit wall only.

      If the pit wall need to communicate anything, they can using their pit boards with limited characters. Simple!

      1. @ecwdanselby That’d be a tad ironic though since iirc these kinds of communications started the other way around

    3. @dbradock I don’t disagree with you on this but I’ve been wondering if the tires having such a narrow optimum temp operating window would make drivers rarely able to figure them out on their own. Of course you’re right that they’d just have to feel what they’re (the tires) doing, but I wonder if that is realistic while the tires are this way.

    4. This whole, “we need you to drive to low 34’s” stuff is rubbish

      I totally agree. it’s pathetic.

    5. @dbradock Oh come on! You know full well it was about strategy and not about tyres, that Mercedes were asking “low 34’s” for. It has nothing to do with “coaching”. Besides, the conversation between drivers and the pitwall gives us a real-time overview of what the drivers and teams are thinking. Plus how do you expect the drivers to know what strategy the other teams are doing? This is a team sport so the team should be allowed to inform the drivers about whatever stuff they want, so long as it is “in the clear”.

      1. The team have all the time in the world between the races to plan, forecast, and simulate.

        I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for them to not steer the ship during a 90 minute race, where the driver should be doing so.

      2. Telling the driver what speed to drive is coaching.

    6. When the car you are chasing is out of sight – as Vettel was to Hamilton for much of the race – such information from the pits is absolutely necessary.

      Mercedes problem was that it wasn’t giving him great information (nor was the timing for his pitstop of the best, as it turns out).

    7. @dbradock, well, the reason that was removed was because fans then started complaining about the fact that we had situations where a driver was unable to race others because he had issues with his car and the team were prevented from helping him, which many felt made the races worse rather than better given it resulted in fights not occurring on track.

  9. What I still can’t understand is where’s the difference between Medium, Soft and SuperSoft tires. They lapped more or less with the same times and duration. I mean, Bottas has a harder compound, fresher tires than Seb and they both finished with tires in critical conditions.

    1. @m-bagattini that’s not really true though, is it? The Mercedes finished while still capable to do low 1:24’s, while Vettel couldn’t get any more than high 1:25’s (last laps > 1:26) so there was definitely a gulf of difference in their performance.

  10. Contrary to what most people think, i saw Ferrari selling Mercedes a dummy – and they fell for it big time.

    The option for Vettel to go long and till the end was always there – irrespective if it was a “Plan D” or whatever. Point is, they played a blinder by making Mercedes think they would come in for a 2nd stop – using Kimi to sell it. This was in order to delay the orders for the Mercedes drivers to push – as they would need to conserve their tires so as to fend off the supposed late charging Ferrari’s at the end.

    As expected, Mercedes gave the order to charge, but it was way too late. This illustrates how Mercedes are on the defensive this season, and as a result, are playing it safe. They are reacting to Ferrari tactics – rather than taking the fight to them. And it has cost them 2 wins.

    We saw the same scenario play out in Melbourne, where they played it (too) safe with the VSC offset to Lewis.

    This was one of the things that frustrate Lewis. He is being given info, but denied the full picture. Asking for low 1:34’s is ok…but to what end??? Will that allow Lewis to catch Seb? Will it allow him to pass? How many laps till he catches him at that delta??

    I see Lewis challenging and disobeying the pit wall a few times this season. We have seen it before, when Mercedes asked Lewis to hold off his charge till later, and he disagreed and went for it. And it paid dividends.

    Interestingly, the same thing happened in Melbourne, where he kept asking if to go for it (after Vettel), but was not given a clear and direct answer. He replied…”i am going for it anyway”. Of course, the overtake didn’t happen, but he made a very spirited effort.

    Also, I believe Mercedes was deliberately cagey with information this time. They did not want a scenario where lewis would catch Bottas, and be faced with a difficult decision. You have a driver faster than his team mate, but you do not really want the teammate to move over. So you lose the win.

    Mercedes did the same thing in Hungary last season when they took over 10 laps to tell Bottas to move over for Lewis – despite his clear pace advantage. The result was that by the time Lewis caught up, he had run out of laps, and they lost the win.

    This is the one thing i like about Ferrari. rightly or wrongly, they split their strategies (with Kimi always worse off) so as to prioritize the win. Although, not fair for Kimi, it had delivered wins for them, when they shouldn’t have won.

    I somehow find it hard to believe Lewis wouldn’t have overtaken Seb or at least put in a better effort, if he had been the car behind. And so would Seb, Max and Ricciardo.

    It would have shown far more heart if he had tried, locked his wheels or run wide. Like Lewis did in Melbourne.

    1. Well put @kbdavies, you might well be right there about the strategy dummy, and the way that played out.

      I can’t be completely happy with Ferrari always choosing against Kimi (or any other 2nd driver), even if it might not be needed, but indeed, we have often seen Mercedes err on the side of not choosing and thus being late to react to a developing situation during the races.

    2. @kbdavies:

      Contrary to what most people think, i saw Ferrari selling Mercedes a dummy – and they fell for it big time.

      The option for Vettel to go long and till the end was always there – irrespective if it was a “Plan D” or whatever.

      It was a big risk though – 30% over the tyre life expected by Pirelli. People have gone beyond the predicted tyre life before, and sometimes the tyres explode….

    3. Sorry mate, but I think you’re wrong. Ferrari were forced into that position when Kimi was lost from the race. He was going to be used as the test dummy to compare performance between a new set of SS and the medium on Bottas’ car.

      Pirelli recommendation for the S was max 30 laps, Seb did 39. And using his own words, “the tyres were done with 10 laps to go”… which further backs up Pirelli’s recommendation.

      Once Kimi was out of the race, Mercedes should’ve instructed Bottas to up his pace and attack Seb, which would’ve then forced Vettel to use up his tyres, which would’ve then seen them go off quicker than they did. Seb’ fastest lap of the race was about 0.5 slower than both the Mercs, who did a 1.33:7 (L51) & 1.33:9 respectively. And Bottas didn’t help himself, by being timid in traffic and allowing Seb to build a gap of nearly 8 seconds. That should’ve been the warning to Mercedes of what th plan was. Build a gap big enough to Bottas and then hang on to the end. Mercedes were too late to react and Bottas was too timid when got his chance on L56.

    4. I think Mer trying to ensure Bottas finish in front of Lewis is the untold story of this race,and it explains their unwillingness to split the strategy.the same thing happened here last year,when Merc lost the race because again they refuse to spilt the strategy leaving both cars out while both Ferrari pitted.Bottas was infront and they wanted to preserve that,and by pitting would either give Lewis the under cut or clear air to push if they pitted Bottas.In the end a safety car came out and they had to stack the cars.In the end Lewis pace advantage was clear
      again in hungry they did the same thing,although Lewis had radio problem it was clear from the telemetry that Lewis was much faster and his tires was in good shape,but they brought him in early to ensure he came out behind Bottas.2 more laps and he could have even leap frog Kimmi and then vettel would have been a sitting dock.
      Instead they let him use up the best of his tires behind Bottas,while Vetell got to grip with his car.

    5. Disagree with hungary, hamilton had enough laps to overtake ferrari, but obviously it’s almost impossible to overtake there, 10 more laps wouldn’t have made a difference.

  11. Mercedes seem to be relying too much on decisions made by data analysis than a veteran strategist. I couldn’t understand why Bottas wasn’t staying with vettel on the track, because when vettel’s tyres went off, Bottas wasn’t close enough to make a pass. Bottas is such a B level driver at the moment, he should have just pulled over at the end and let Lewis past, because there is zero chance Bottas will win a drivers championship.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      10th April 2018, 13:44

      Zero chance he could win the championship in nonsence. It is small against Hamilton but he was closer to Hamilton in points in 2017 that Rosberg was in 2014 and 2015. Yes, it was partly down to luck. Then the year after, Rosberg managed to get the championship. On top of it, the 3 years where Mercedes drivers got the championship, the car was far more dominant than it was in 2017.

      With a bit of luck, things could go Bottas’s way. But having 2 4 times world champions around him will make it hard. Bottas may lack aggression, but ge genrally is very a very solid wh makes few mistakes.

      1. As Bottas most certainly will not be driving for the team next year….yes there is zero chance of him winning the Championship…Mercedes will make sure….interestingly the team haven’t critiscied Valteri in public for the lack of effort to try and pass Seb…..but Valteri has said there is a problem with his car design allowing the tyres to overheat……not sure that is wise..

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          10th April 2018, 21:44

          You can’t say he “most certainly will not” be in Mercedes next year as you are not in charge of where Botats goes at all…. You don’t know if they actually see a huge benefit of Bottas over Rosberg. One area is that Botats and Hamilton haven’t collided together at any point since being team mates and there is far less tension between them. Think about spain last year in 2016. If an incident between Hamilton and Bottas had happened this year having the same impact, think about how that will have affected the championship. The top teams were far closer this year so it will have been really costly. They certainly won’t have got it as soon. There are some benefits to Bottas although Rosberg in most areas was better. But he’d been in the team since 2010 and this is only Bottas’s 2nd season. You are being very unreasonable if I’m honest. You just can’t say there is zero chance of him winning the championship. I see it as very unlikely. But if Hamilton has an unlucky year with 2 or 3 retirements and Bottas is ahead towards the end of the year, there is no way they would try to help Hamilton at that stage. Another very unlikely event, but there is not zero chance of it happening.

          And I personally think Mercedes will keep Bottas next year and it looked like on the questions at the start of this year, quite a few people also think this.

          Mercedes have already admitted about this issue with overheating tyres. They said this last year. There is nothing wrong with Bottas explaining where the car needs to be improved. It could be possible that Mercedes benefit from their drivers saying where the car needs to be improved.

  12. digitalrurouni
    10th April 2018, 14:01

    IMHO both the races could have been won by the Mercedes team. Their habit of having the drivers drive to the limit and a very small managed limit or gap or whatever you want to call it hurts them. Add to that the 3 engine limit rule now most teams if they are not leading will drive super conservatively. Australia there was no reason Hamilton could not maintain a 5 second gap to Raikkonen. He had the pace in spades. Would have saved their bacon from the VSC.

    Bahrain it seems Bottas was told oh Vettel will surely pit for the second time. How can they ‘assume’ that will happen 100%!?!? Just dumb if you ask me.

  13. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    10th April 2018, 14:02

    And this is the part that I don’t understand – Bottas was afraid that if he pushed he would wear out the medium tyre.

    Vettel had pushed on the soft for 20 laps and then was told to do another 20 laps and on soft tyres that should have been in much worse shape than Bottas’ tyres.

    Is it technically possible to get 20 extra laps without losing grip from a soft tyre after running 20 laps on it?

    This makes little sense to me as Vettel couldn’t really nurse the tyres because he had a Mercedes closing up behind him that he could see in his rear view mirror.

    Something’s wrong here in terms of the soft tyre. I’d understand if Vettel was sliding like a maniac at the end and somehow still won but his tyres looked fantastic, especially in rear shots, and Vettel wasn’t really fighting the car for grip at all as we see drivers having to do all the time.

    So 20 laps +20 laps and no degradation under pressure, that just doesn’t make sense to me or anyone I hope.

    BTW, isn’t Bahrain considered the track with the most wear on tyres? I thought someone said that during the practices.
    To hear that Bottas was worried about the medium tyre going off when the soft tyre could do 20 hot laps plus 20 extra laps and still be in near perfect shape, is even stranger. No one will touch the medium tyre anymore since it’s obviously slower and has less life than the soft.

    We will see some crazy strategies over the course of the season with the soft tyres and they had better last 40-50 laps without any visible degradation other than 1 second performance drop – Pirelli is going to be very busy making those super special softs:-)

    1. Is it technically possible to get 20 extra laps without losing grip from a soft tyre after running 20 laps on it?

      No, he lost performance, see the lap-charts by Keith

      This makes little sense to me as Vettel couldn’t really nurse the tyres because he had a Mercedes closing up behind him that he could see in his rear view mirror.

      Vettel won that race for Ferrari due to excellent management and car control with worn tyres, you will have to accept that he did a stellar drive, it must be hard for you but still.

      So 20 laps +20 laps and no degradation under pressure, that just doesn’t make sense to me or anyone I hope.

      There was degradation, you can even see it here, look at the difference from the Ferrari tyre and the Merc (and these are the front tyres, I couldn’t find a picture of the rears, which should be in even worse shape). Also, Vettel’s stint wasn’t 20 hot laps + 20 management laps as you keep saying, the stint was actually very consistent, the range of lap-times that he did was between 94.5s and 95s until we reached 15 laps to the finish where he started lapping well within the 95+ seconds. In comparison Hamilton was still able to lap on the second 93 a couple of laps from the end, while Vettel took 95.947s, 96.625s and 97.003s respectively to complete the last three laps of the race..

      Finally, and taking into account your reaction after the Melbourne race, I was expecting you to take the Ferrari incident in the pits as a deliberate manoeuvre to take focus from the Haas’, since by then you were so sure that the race was fixed

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        10th April 2018, 16:59


        No, he lost performance, see the lap-charts by Keith

        I did check them and guess what? Vettel laid down the fastest lap on lap 21 (2 laps after he pitted) with a 94.453. His 2nd fastest lap came a few laps after Raikonnen pitted on lap 37 with 94.591 (lap 38 was 94.597).

        Still believe that he wasn’t putting fast laps when his quickest laps are 20 laps after he pitted. He did 5 super laps and then slowed down and some of that is probably due to traffic, not slowing down.

        There was degradation, you can even see it here,

        You mean at the end of the race after he took on all the klag? Not to mention that if you have serious degradation, you don’t run a 94.5 on the 2nd lap and a 94.8 on the 20th lap.

        In comparison Hamilton was still able to lap on the second 93 a couple of laps from the end, while Vettel took 95.947s, 96.625s and 97.003s respectively to complete the last three laps of the race..

        As for the last 3 laps, he was defending against Bottas, that’s why they were slower. It’s not because he was losing grip. Bottas got held up by traffic as did Lewis.

        By the way, I’m not saying that Vettel drove badly – I completely acknowledge Toto’s statement that Vettel drove great but tyre degradation wasn’t much of a factor for Seb at the end of the race.

        1. I should know better by now

        2. Shame on Pirelli for producing those special softs just for Seb. Must be a conspiracy…

    2. wasn’t really fighting the car for grip at all as we see drivers having to do all the time.

      @freelittlebirds I’m no racing driver but even the folks at Sky commented on how much wheelspin VET had out of corners.

      tyre degradation wasn’t much of a factor for Seb at the end of the race.

      Doesn’t explain HAM and BOT decreasing their gaps to the car that, at the end of the day, did get pole. On mediums at that.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        11th April 2018, 13:01

        @davidnotcoulthard I was watching Sky too, I don’t remember them saying that but I’ll take your word for it. I watched it twice and I didn’t see Vettel make one correction if that’s what you mean by wheelspin.

        If that were true, I imagine Bottas would have been able to close up more or take advantage of Vettel’s lower speed out of the corners so that doesn’t support Sky’s comments and neither does the video or race. I think if Bottas had any visible indication that Vettel was struggling, he would have attacked multiple times but the problem was that he couldn’t even get close to Vettel who seemed like he could pull away if he wanted to but just keep Bottas just outside of striking distance.

        Plus wouldn’t Vettel end up on the outside of the track with less grip and wheelspin at least on a few high speed corners, giving Bottas the chance to pounce on the inside with superior grip?

        I think Bottas caught up because of Mercedes’s strategy which was too conservative.

        1. I didn’t see Vettel make one correction if that’s what you mean by wheelspin.

          I think they were referring to hearing wheelspins from the rear tyres during acceleration while talking about how Bahrain is (in their opinion) rear-tyre limited (then again they’re not gods so you can’t just take their words 100%, I guess) see video at
          1:26:41 and 1:28:25

          who seemed like he could pull away if he wanted to but just keep Bottas just outside of striking distance.

          He’d have left way more gap than close enough for DRS to be activated somewhere where it’s actually (for once post-2016) pretty effective. It’s far from 100% foreseeable that an overtake wouldn’t have happened at turn 1 on the last lap considering how close VET “let” BOT got and I don’t think anyone’s ever taken “winning while driving as slow as possible” that far without being too slow not to have to.

  14. I feel this is another strategy mistake by Mercedes. If they thought Vettle would make another pit stop, they should have had Bottas close up to press the issue and make that happen, or be in a position to challenge in case Seb went to a one stop. Mercedes needs to up their strategy game.

  15. Mercedes is still running too cautiously. If they’d given Bottas the go ahead to attack earlier, then he might have taken the top step– worst case, he’d burn his tires, pit, and come back out behind Hamilton and Mercedes would still have a 2-3 finish, since Gasly was well over the pitstop delta behind Hamilton.

    1. Spot on! Once Kimi was out the race, they had more to gain than lose. The gap behind them was so big that even if they wore out their tyres, they could’ve stopped 2 more times and still maintain their position.

  16. The (rather poorly thought out) article seems to vaguely suggest Bottas had no chance, but the way Hamilton closed up right from the get go after his pit stop showed he really should have been able to attack.

    Mercedes and/or Bottas seriously dropped the ball here. If Bottas had at least attacked then Vettel wouldn’t had the chance to cruise. Then indeed Vettel would have been forced to make that extra stop.

    This is exactly why Hamilton doesn’t listen to the poor strategic advice Mercedes keeps giving. This “wait until the last laps to attack” strategy really never works. Hamilton learned this (and ignore this advice with much more success), why can’t Mercedes do so?

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      10th April 2018, 22:00

      While I don’t think the team did give the best info to Bottas, I don’t think it would set a very good example if Bottas refused to follow team orders. In an interview on Channel 4, Toto said they had told Bottas to hold back partly because of the heating issues which was also what Bottas said. If he didn’t do that, we don’t know what could have gone wrong. Then people will have had a go at him for ignoring his team if he went for it. Remember when Hamilton asked a question on the radio in Australia, waited for an answer and got none. Then said “I’m going for it”. Then what happened? He went wide onto the gravel and lost another second to Vettel. Sometimes waiting for the teams advice can be an advantage, sometimes it isn’t. But I don’t see much wrong with What Bottas did. It could have turned out that he couldn’t have got as close as he did even if he got let free sooner. It could well have been when he dropped down to 7 seconds behind Vettel that he was trying to manage his temperature. While I do think several other drivers are better than Bottas that are in the top teams could maybe have got there quicker, I’m not sure they could have got past Vettel if they were in Bottas’s situation. I think Bottas did about all he could and the team should probably have done things a little different.
      But Mercedes knew at the end of the race that they were already lucky that one Ferrari had retired as well as both Red Bulls. Hamilton was very likely higher up than they were expecting. They are now only 10 points off Ferrari in the constructors. I don’t think it was a disaster that Bottas didn’t try to take a bigger risk on the final lap given the end result.

      1. It was a disaster for Bottas. Toto’s face after the race said it all.
        Bottas face too.
        He should have taken more risk.

  17. There was a lot of confused discussion between the team and Hamilton also. He kept asking, what’s the target and what modes? They kept saying, run X time and tell us how hard you are pushing and then we will update the modes. I know these guys are supposed to drive like machines, but that seems a weird way to establish a pace, relying on the driver input as a constant.

    Also, they didn’t seem to be giving him a race situation view as he was asking. Until quite late, they were telling him where Vettel was in his pit window. After that became moot, it seemed they didn’t know what to say. I wanted to jump in and say, “Vettel is not stopping. If his tires go off as we expect, you need to run pace X to catch him, so give it a go.” As it turned out, he nearly caught the lead pair and it’s possible he could have caught Vettel as well if he pulled the trigger faster. He was obviously faster than Bottas. Certainly getting into Bottas’ DRS would have giving him a boost up.

    1. I found that particularly interesting. Clearly there was a fundamental misunderstanding between how the Mercedes pit wanted Lewis to use the “TAC” setting and how Lewis thought he should be using it. The pit wall wanted it to be used as a secret “effort” setting, and Lewis just used it as a “match target” setting. Seemed like Lewis could not get his head around the concept of using it to describe how hard it was for him to run at the target. It’s entirely plausible that a driver with as much natural speed as Lewis can’t even describe effort – all he can do is times.

      Again, Mercedes’ weakness is often caused by trying to be too “clever” with the strategy (seen many times in the past at McLaren as well). Can’t help that feel that a table of projected laptimes for different tyre strategies combined with a stopwatch and a pencil will give you all the answers you need.

  18. I don’t think it’s fair to say he should’ve passed and Lewis would have. But remember Australia two weeks ago; when Lewis went for it. It seemed that he went ALL IN – attacking Seb – without a full confirmation from the pit wall. To me this is the slight but crucial difference between Hamilton and Bottas; initiative and self-confidence. That extra bit of hunger. We saw it before between Seb and Mark… This is what makes a number 1 and number 2.

  19. Maybe pushing harder at the beginning of the stint would’ve triggered a response by Ferrari switching back to a two stopper. Maybe it was worth the try… they already had no one behind them, so 2nd and 3rd were guarranteed already.

  20. One of things from the difficult radio coversations is that its dificiult for the driver to know how the tyres will react to pushing and its difficult for the team to know as well. The team seemed to want Hamilton to push quite hard “level 2” to work out what would happen, or whatever they said, but Hamilton wanted a target time to start with to catch Vettel when his tyres go off. Well a target time can result in different effects depending on the driver. Also driving to a time could mean lifting and coasting or taking it easy through corners. A true target time is nearly impossible to work out how another teams tyres will go off. Considering they had two cars in the race Mercedes probably should have used one as a hare to try to pressure Vettel early on to force him to pit or kill his tyres and one to be conservative to pick up pieces. Having both go conservative did not work out as it was too similar to what Vettel had to do.

    However the Bottas strategy did thow the cat amongst the pigeons and encouraged Ferrari to pit early and ultimately retire. However they might have done that anyway for a radical undercut on Bottas.

    1. Lewis did not want a target time, it was the team that wanted it. They’re the ones seeing the lap times of all the drivers, so how can Lewis set his own lap time and then have them agree with it?

  21. Some drivers are happy to be on the podium, but i don’t think Mercedes was by no means amazed with Bottas’s performances in Brazil last year and this last race.

    The guy seriously lacks ferocity. If he went for it even without DRS for a clumsy move, it would have worked because Vettel’s tyres were dead.
    He is exactly like Kimi, but Kimi is ten years older. I don’t think Mercedes will keep him. His last good race was Silverstone last year. It’s too much time underperforming.

  22. Vetel won wen they got traffic. He was much more effective passing other cars.

    Bottas also had a chance in the last lap, but he lock up the tyres right before the 2nd DRS zone.

    Bottas is excellent…2nd driver. He is not, and he will never be human material to be a World Champion. Hamilton could not be happier than now having someone that does not pose a threat like Rosberg, Alonso or Button were to him.

    1. @mauromori

      Vetel won wen they got traffic. He was much more effective passing other cars.

      With blue flags having been back for years now if there’s a difference in the time lost while lapping I think it’s more down to luck than skills.

  23. Bottas needs to stop analysing everything and just drive for the fun of driving. Alonso knows the score when he sometimes says no more radios, I’ll deal with this. Maybe Bottas simply can’t do that, I just wish he had more intuition rather than relying on the team information on when to push.

  24. Wow, all this hate for Bottas (who IS a talented AND smart driver–smarter that Lewis, for sure), and for team orders and communications.

    It seems everyone here has forgotten that the drivers’ standings and points mean absolutely NOTHING in the world of Formula 1. NOTHING. Except ego points for the drivers, and maybe improved sponsorship.

    What REALLY matters are the CONSTRUCTORS’ POINTS. Without those points, the FIA gives them almost NO MONEY (not to mention the sponsors, who spend ten times on a team what they do on a driver). Without that money, YOU HAVE NO CAR.

    And, therefore, no racing.

    Bottas gets this: points for second are worth far more than no points at all. Especially to his bosses.

    Y’all want to see a demolition derby? Go watch NASCAR.

    You want to see the most advanced racing on the planet? Stick to F1.

    1. Without drivers, F1 doesn’t exist. It’s both an engineering competition and one formed on track between individuals within a 2hr period.

      It’s the combination that makes F1.

    2. I agree, being second is better than being last. Also, if Bottas had crashed into Vettel then Hamilton would have won, got the 25 points, and Bottas would have been the villain, got no points, and potentially damaged his engine and gearbox, thus incurring penalties at the next race. As it is, he’s kept his car in good condition for the next race.

    3. Hahaha i think you don’t understand F1.

    4. I would say F1 is the opposite. Its all about the drivers. No one really cares about constructors, its all about the drivers championship

      1. @johns23

        No one really cares about constructors

        Except the paddock interestingly enough (and I don’t mean that as an argument – iirc the world really is more interested in the WDC than the WCC, except the F1 paddock)

  25. Unfair. There are plenty of examples of champions not being able to pass the car in front, and you don’t have to far back for the last. No one said then that xxxx could have been able to pass.

  26. It looks like the Ferrari engine is on par with the Mercedes engine. I don’t see Bottas’ inability to overtake Vettel as anything other than what is normal for cars of equitable performance in F1. I’m expecting this sort of situation to continue for the remainder of the races with this Mercedes engine. Unfortunately for Mercedes I think they’ve become too reliant on the superior performance of their power unit.

  27. When I read Bottas comments on the way he was relying in team info about keeping deltas on each lap, on avoiding tire temp to increase above an specific temperature, I think that something is off about being an F1 driver nowadays. They are still incredibly talented individuals, but they look more like just the ones that need to execute specific tasks all along the race, trying to meet specific performance targets defined by algorithms and engineers looking real time data. For sure it’s exciting as an engineering exercise and as a teamwork performance, but ultimately for me it devalues the role of the driver. If we analyse the questions from all drivers on radio communication, most of the time they are asking what they should do, or what lap time is needed. I think that F1 should enforce rules that give them less information and less guidance from the pit wall. The way a driver “read” a race it’s for me one of the most important things that highlight an good driver from a great driver. This will make for more decisions based on gut feeling, racing instincts, and will show who are the more complete drivers that can actually think on the race as a whole, and not the best “followers of team instruction “ nowadays we got to a point that the drivers are lost if they don’t have any instructions on pace from the pit wall. Should a driver like Bottas relied only on his gut feeling, maybe he would have had a better chance to overtake Vettel. The same for Hamilton in Australia. Less pit wall interference, more variety in strategies, more errors, more excitement, more reward for risks, more complete drivers.

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