Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2019

Mercedes explains why it didn’t take risk of pitting Bottas

2019 Australian Grand Prix

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Valtteri Bottas didn’t pit for a fresh set of tyres to aid his effort to score the bonus point for fastest lap at the end of the Australian Grand Prix because Mercedes weren’t convinced it was worth the risk.

The question of whether to pit one or both of their drivers to gain a fresh set of tyres if they had sufficient lead for a ‘free’ stop was “hotly debated” within Mercedes, according to Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles.

“The facts are there are 21 races, 21 points, which is nearly a race wins’ worth, and you can’t let your rivals run away with that,” he said. “This could be a close-fought season and that may make all the difference.”

However bringing a driver in for an extra pit stop was a question of balancing “risk versus reward”, he explained.

“If, for example, you decide to do an extra pit stop for the sole purpose of being able to get the fastest lap of the race, there is risk involved in that. Perhaps you don’t get a wheel connected to the car correctly and the car goes out, and it’s a DNF. Perhaps, the driver accidentally crosses the white line on entry or exit. Either one of those has huge repercussions and all of a sudden your race wins’ worth of points is meaningless relative to the one you were going for.

“The converse is again at the end of the race, asking a driver to push and extract performance for the fastest lap of the race isn’t without risk. They can go off the track, they can make a mistake and they can risk the car.”

During the race Bottas was the only one of the team’s drivers with a large enough lead to be able to make a pit stop without losing a position. However Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said his forbade both his drivers and their engineers from chasing the fastest lap of the race.

Nonetheless Bottas and Hamilton set the two quickest times, and Bottas claimed the bonus point.

“Both Valtteri and Lewis did a great job managing the tyres and just trying to keep as much rubber available on them as they could, such that they could go for the fastest lap at the end of the race,” said Vowles.

“Valtteri ultimately had tyres in a slightly better condition and didn’t have the floor damage that Lewis did, and did a fantastic job scoring the maximum number of points available to him that race.”

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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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24 comments on “Mercedes explains why it didn’t take risk of pitting Bottas”

  1. You can’t trip over a dollar to pickup a penny….

    Obvious decision, no explanation required/asked for.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. Why would we even be looking for an explanation.

      I’m sure if they had called him in, he’d have probably refused. He might have wanted the extra point but wouldn’t have been keen on potentially losing his lead.

  2. Makes sense now. If his drivers get embroiled in a close WDC fight either with each other or Ferrari, he might find it harder to restrain their chasing of fastest lap.

  3. “Being a racing driver means you are racing with other people and if you no longer go for a gap that exists you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing.”

    Mercedes will feel pretty bad if they lose the championship by the amount of points they can gain with the fastest lap. Australia I think caught the teams off guard a bit with how the strategy could play out, but I don’t think we’ll see teams like Red Bull or Ferrari pass up an opportunity to score that point in future races. Even if it is just to keep that point from being scored by Mercedes.

    1. @g-funk, of course, the problem with that analogy is that Senna had no intention to “go for a gap”, but rather to go for Prost – so it only really works if your intention is really about denying somebody else the opportunity, rather than going for one yourself.

      1. Thank you!

      2. @anon, it’s true that the quote was given because of Senna torpedoing himself into Prost to win the championship, but dismissing the quote because of that is dismissing the truth behind the quote. I can give other quotes that illustrate the same point: you have to be willing to put it all on the line to win and winning is the only thing that matters in racing.

        To achieve anything in this game you must be prepare to dabble in the boundary of disaster. – Sterling Moss

        The winner ain’t the one with the fastest car, it’s the one who refuses to lose. – Dale Earnhardt Sr.

        Winning is everything. The only ones who remember you when you come second are your wife and your dog. – Damon Hill

        And, yes, denying someone else the opportunity of winning so you can win yourself would fall into that. And I suspect Red Bull and Ferrari will be more ruthless about that in future races now that they’ve seen how the strategy can play out.

    2. Ferrari did not take the oportunity in this race either. They could have pitted either one of their cars, and had the same to gain and a lot less to loose…..
      The same is for Redbull. VER had time to pit an still beat VET.
      So all in all, Ferrari was the biggest loosers in my opinion. They had 10 and 12 points in hand, and by pitting one driver they’d have 1 extra point for a low risk. If VET and LECs pace and trackposition had been the other way around they’d pitted VET….

      1. Verstappen had chance to overtake hamilton, so ofc he didn’t try for fastest lap with pit stop.

        1. He did try to set the fastest time which he did but Bottas went much faster. But he won’t pit for that too risky when Ferrari didn’t.

      2. Yes. Ferrari prevented Leclerc from passing Vettel, which I understand, but at the same time refused to pit him for fresh tyres even if they had all the time in the world to do it. If they lose constructors title by two, it would be because of this point not gained and lost to Mercedes.

    3. So glad you used that quote @g-funk, because @keithcollantine has already shed light on the truth between that trite motor racing quote.

    4. Not as bad as they would feel if they threw 25 points away to gain 1.

    5. I think @khm makes a good point, Ferrari didn’t go for the point either. So:
      1) Merc don’t need to rue not going for it if their (likely) rival for the title didn’t either. No loss there.
      2) IF Ferrari (and maybe RBR?) starts going for the FLap points, then Merc can consider going for it as well. But until that starts happening, Merc doesn’t need to worry.

  4. isaac (@invincibleisaac)
    20th March 2019, 20:54

    It makes sense. Why risk losing a comfortable 25 points just to get an extra 1? I know everyone is always looking for maxim points but it wouldn’t have been worth it as so much can go wrong in a pitstop, such as with Haas. That said a late race safety car could have proved interesting with people on old tyres.

  5. By that logic, shouldn’t Mercedes be one-stopping in all races?

    1. They will if they have the same advantage they had in Australia. Anyway, whenever two strategies look similar overall for the race, any team will choose the one where they spend less time in the pits.

  6. This wasn’t just about Valtteri winning the race, it was about winning AND getting that extra point. If Valtteri had pitted then I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Lewis win the race, which would have been an anathema to Valtteri. The lesson from this is with good strategy the winner can get the fastest lap point without having to pit.

  7. Bottas fastest lap was .477 seconds faster than then next fastest lap.
    He didn’t need to pit, he had no competition whatsover, and I don’t doubt he could’ve gone even faster if anyone had tried to compete for fastest lap.
    He was a man on mission and there was no stopping him. Really promising for the next 20 races.

    1. then toto says that BOT managed to get the fastest lap only because HAM had older tires and a defect on the board? Let’s face it, BOT won only because HAM was not given the opportunity to have a proper car.

  8. I don’t think Mercedes doubted their speed in hand at that stage. 77 took the fastest lap position and swapped that position with 33 even after 33’s late pit stop. Mercedes was never going to bring in 77. The other teams didn’t full know what 77 had in terms of late race/old tyres pace, therefore, they balked at the chance because they didn’t want to lose a position as well as the extra point.

    I think the better question is, if 77 did box for a fresh go at the extra point, do the other teams follow suit in an effort to block his effort at fully securing the point? (Considering all race position finishes were going to remain the same)

  9. He didn’t even have a fresh set of the softest compound available anymore, only a set of the hardest compound of the weekend.

  10. Most teams and drivers aren’t going to risk anything to chase just 1 point. Next year, FIA should make it 2 points, that will have more drivers going for it.

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