In Baku Mercedes tricked Ferrari into compromising Sebastian Vettel’s track position in Q3 by performing dummy practice starts when they sent their drivers out for their final runs.Ferrari got payback. As they prepared to begin their final runs Charles Leclerc dived past Valtteri Bottas, setting himself up for a run to pole position, and disrupting Bottas’s preparation for his final effort.
Several times this year we’ve seen the lengths teams will go to in order to ensure their drivers find an optimal position to begin their final Q3 runs while benefiting from the slipstream of others. In China, Vettel passed Verstappen moments before beginning his final Q3 run in order to ensure he started his last lap on time. Verstappen missed his chance to set a time as a result.
The situation in Austria was slightly different in that Bottas didn’t need to cut things quite as fine with Leclerc. However as he explained afterwards, mis-communication with his pit wall left him unsure about how long left he had to start his lap time.
“It was a bit of a messy Q3 in terms of traffic,” Bottas explained. “We left it already quite late for the first run and then there were some cars backing off and everything. The first one was still all good I think from that side. My second one everyone pretty much parked in the last sector.
“We did have a bit of an issue with the communications as well. The message for me was that it was going to be super-close but I would make it.”
When Bottas left the pits to start his final run he was initially told he was “tight on time”. This was partly because his team mate Lewis Hamilton had left the pits in front of him and dawdled slightly.
The urgency with which Mercedes told Hamilton not to waste time underlines how close they were cutting it to get both cars around to start their final lap times. “Lewis we can’t wait on time,” he was told hurriedly, “get going, get going.” Hamilton’s radio message indicated the time lost was around three seconds.
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
Mercedes updated Bottas on his progress around the lap by referring to where he should be relative to the “out-lap”. Ferrari, however, gave Leclerc similar information by means of a countdown in seconds, so at each point on the lap he would know how long he had to make it to the start/finish line.
This appears to be where the confusion crept in for Bottas. As he neared the end of the lap he was fairly safe in terms of his track position, but Mercedes were also growing concerned about Leclerc bearing down on their driver and springing a late pass.
That was exactly what Leclerc did, at turn nine. By then, Bottas had very little of the lap left to back off and ensure he wasn’t too close to Leclerc.
“After Leclerc went ahead of me then I was right behind him in the last corner, going super-slow,” Bottas explained. “[I was] a bit too close to him, got a very poor exit from the last corner so I lost already quite a chunk of time into turn one.”
He was also compromised by his relatively slow pace at the end of the lap, a consequence of having sped up too much earlier on to gain time. “The tyre prep wasn’t there with cruising around sector three. It’s been quite on the limit this weekend for us to get even the soft tyre to work for lap one. For sure for the last one I couldn’t get it into the sweet spot. So just a bit messy.”
Inevitably, Mercedes are already making plans to avoid a repeat of the slip-up which saw Bottas fall from second to fourth with his last run. “We already had a quick debrief and discussed about the communications and for sure there’s something we’ve learned today in terms of what kind of information I need that would help me.
“In the end when I crossed the line there was much more than 10 seconds still margin so I would have easily left a bigger gap a bit earlier, get a good head of speed out of the last corner and possibly warmer tyres.”
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
Bottas and Leclerc radio from the end of Q3
|To Bottas:||So four cars on out-laps ahead of Lewis and Verstappen.|
|To Bottas:||Exit Turn one|
We are tight on time.
|To Bottas:||Turn three|
Out-lap is at turn three, need to catch up so speed up a bit.
|To Bottas:||Turn four approach|
Now we are ahead.
|To Bottas:||So out-lap is at turn four.|
|To Bottas:||Leclerc will try to overtake because it’s tight.|
|To Bottas:||Strat two.|
|To Bottas:||Turn seven|
Out-lap is at turn six, got a bit of time in hand.
|To Bottas:||Watch out for Leclerc.|
|To Bottas:||Leclerc passes him in turn nine|
Out-lap is turn seven, out-lap approaching turn eight.
|To Bottas:||Leclerc slows approaching turn 10|
Out-lap still at turn eight.
|To Bottas:||25 seconds in hand.|
|To Bottas:||Bottas accelerates out of the final corner|
21 seconds in hand.
|To Bottas:||Bottas completes his lap|
OK Valtteri that’s P4. Leclerc 03.0, Lewis managed to improve in heavy traffic, 3.2. Versatppen P3, 3.4. Watch the delta.
|To Bottas:||We are boxing.|
|Bottas:||What was the margin. You said 20 seconds?|
|Bottas:||I could have left a lot bigger gap if you’d told me at the start.|
|To Bottas:||You need to be negative on the delta.|
|To Bottas:||Stay negative on the delta, positive eight seconds.|
|To Bottas:||You need to hurry up, the Safety Car Line is early, we’re still quite positive.|
|To Bottas:||Coming in the pits.|
|Leclerc:||Can you remind me the time that needs to be remained at the apex of turn seven? 25 seconds, right?|
|To Leclerc:||Apex of turn six is 30 seconds.|
|To Leclerc:||25 at the entry of seven.|
|Leclerc:||Are we tight?|
|To Leclerc:||Go, go.|
|To Leclerc:||Mercedes will be in front.|
|Leclerc:||He follows Hamilton and Bottas out|
Are we tight?
|To Leclerc:||We don’t have margin. We don’t have margin.|
|To Leclerc:||You need one minute from turn three.|
|To Leclerc:||Turn three exit|
You have five seconds margin.
|To Leclerc:||Bottas in front is 1.2 seconds in front.|
|To Leclerc:||We have nine seconds margin. We have nine seconds margin.|
|To Leclerc:||Bottas in front one second. We need a bit more gap.|
|To Leclerc:||We need a bit more gap.|
|To Leclerc:||He passes Bottas at turn nine and almost stops|
Mode push for last corner. Mode push.
|To Leclerc:||Leclerc complete his lap|
And slow button on, slow button on.
|To Leclerc:||Stay negative. P1, P1, Hamilton P2, Verstappen P3, stay negative.|
|Leclerc:||Come on baby, yes! Feels good. It feels good. On the other hand I’m very sorry for the team about what happened to Seb. Thank you.|
|To Leclerc:||Stay negative.|
|Leclerc:||I’m trying but I need to overtake other cars to be negative.|
|To Leclerc:||Amazing job. You can overtake to be negative.|
|Leclerc:||It’s OK now.|
|Leclerc:||What’s the second-best time? I’m going to the grid.|
Go ad-free for just £1 per month
2019 F1 season
- McLaren Racing reports reduced £71 million loss in 2019
- Kvyat: Hockenheim podium last year was “my biggest achievement” so far
- How the FIA’s new encrypted fuel flow meter targets Ferrari’s suspected ‘aliasing’ trick
- “He smashed my office door”: 23 must-see moments from ‘Drive to Survive’ season two
- ‘I should have done a better job. There’s things that I know I can do better’