Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2020

Why Bottas may not get to use strategy to attack Hamilton

2020 Hungarian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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For once, first practice proved an accurate reflection of what was to follow in qualifying. In both sessions, two Mercedes headed two Racing Points.

Intriguingly, both teams opted to qualify on the medium compound tyres. Mercedes could probably have run them in Q3 and still swept the front row of the grid. In Racing Point’s case, running them in Q2 was the kind of call which looked wise with hindsight but foolish at the time – both drivers came worryingly close to being eliminated.

Last year the top five drivers on the grid all started on medium tyres. In a two-horse race against pole-winner Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton made an extra pit stop, switching from hards back to mediums, and successfully passed the Red Bull to win.

On Sunday we’re likely to see a two-horse race again between the Mercedes drivers, assuming both make it around the first lap unscathed, as Valtteri Bottas failed to last year.

Hamilton’s 2019 race demonstrated how differing strategies can create opportunities to gain places on a track where overtaking is normally very difficult. Sebastian Vettel’s did too: He ran a long first stint and switched to soft tyres for the end of the race, and dived past Charles Leclerc to bag the final spot on the podium with three laps to go.

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Could either of those scenarios point to ways Bottas might be able to take the fight to Hamilton? Team principal Toto Wolff poured cold water on that suggestion after qualifying, indicating the team won’t risk compromising its advantage over its rivals at this early stage in the season, even with such an apparently large performance advantage.

Lance Stroll, Racing Point, Hungaroring, 2020
Stroll has a chance to return to the podium
“We are into the third racing weekend, there’s probably 15 more to go, and I wouldn’t take it easily,” he said. “I don’t want to take a decision here that could be negligent and throw away valuable points and find myself in a position where Red Bull comes back strong at the end of the season and we’ve been a little bit foolish and complacent.

“So in that respect, I’m not saying no to alternative race strategies, I’m not sure I want to deploy this in Hungary, but we are certainly going to discuss it with the drivers and within the engineering community.

“Just to reassure you, it’s already something that we discussed in Austria with the drivers and we felt that it is a positive contribution to Formula 1. So we might come up with a decision, but it will be a well thought through decision.”

But if Mercedes’ performance advantage in the race is even half what it was in qualifying, they could find themselves with a pit stop in hand over their rivals at mid-race. In that scenario the temptation for one crew to try a different strategy will be strong. As last year showed, if the chasing driver is close enough, then as soon as they pit it becomes impossible for the leading driver to cover them, and the die is cast.

Behind them, the race will be an interesting test of the two Racing Point drivers’ speed and driving defensive abilities, particularly at the start of the race. The immediate threat will come from the two Ferrari drivers on soft tyres.

Leclerc and Vettel will be well aware that splitting the pink cars at the start may be their best chance of beating them. Of course they will be equally conscious of the need to avoid any repeat of their collision last week. Leclerc especially…

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Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton26.934 (1)25.758 (1)20.731 (1)
Valtteri Bottas26.975 (2)25.825 (2)20.754 (2)
Lance Stroll27.119 (3)26.103 (3)21.155 (5)
Sergio Perez27.124 (4)26.143 (4)21.187 (8)
Sebastian Vettel27.443 (9)26.288 (7)21.014 (3)
Charles Leclerc27.389 (7)26.245 (6)21.121 (4)
Max Verstappen27.262 (5)26.351 (9)21.220 (10)
Lando Norris27.354 (6)26.319 (8)21.174 (6)
Carlos Sainz Jnr27.406 (8)26.229 (5)21.213 (9)
Pierre Gasly27.544 (10)26.626 (12)21.291 (12)
Daniel Ricciardo27.607 (13)26.546 (10)21.183 (7)
George Russell27.606 (12)26.579 (11)21.340 (14)
Alexander Albon27.586 (11)26.720 (14)21.305 (13)
Esteban Ocon27.648 (14)26.670 (13)21.276 (11)
Nicholas Latifi27.705 (15)26.852 (15)21.548 (17)
Kevin Magnussen27.715 (16)26.862 (16)21.575 (18)
Daniil Kvyat27.730 (17)26.890 (17)21.450 (15)
Romain Grosjean27.909 (19)26.970 (18)21.528 (16)
Antonio Giovinazzi27.913 (20)27.000 (19)21.593 (19)
Kimi Raikkonen27.757 (18)27.125 (20)21.710 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Lance StrollRacing PointMercedes313.9 (195.0)
2Sergio PerezRacing PointMercedes313.2 (194.6)-0.7
3Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes312.5 (194.2)-1.4
4Alexander AlbonRed BullHonda312.0 (193.9)-1.9
5Max VerstappenRed BullHonda310.0 (192.6)-3.9
6Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda309.6 (192.4)-4.3
7Nicholas LatifiWilliamsMercedes308.5 (191.7)-5.4
8Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes308.3 (191.6)-5.6
9George RussellWilliamsMercedes308.2 (191.5)-5.7
10Daniil KvyatToro RossoHonda307.5 (191.1)-6.4
11Daniel RicciardoRenaultRenault307.0 (190.8)-6.9
12Antonio GiovinazziAlfa RomeoFerrari306.9 (190.7)-7.0
13Carlos Sainz JnrMcLarenRenault306.7 (190.6)-7.2
14Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari306.4 (190.4)-7.5
15Lando NorrisMcLarenRenault306.3 (190.3)-7.6
16Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari306.2 (190.3)-7.7
17Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoFerrari306.1 (190.2)-7.8
18Esteban OconRenaultRenault305.1 (189.6)-8.8
19Charles LeclercFerrariFerrari304.3 (189.1)-9.6
20Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari303.3 (188.5)-10.6

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Over to you

Can anything stop the Mercedes drivers in Hungary? Who do you think will take the final podium position?

Share your views on the Hungarian Grand Prix in the comments.

2020 Hungarian Grand Prix

Browse all 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix articles

Author information

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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21 comments on “Why Bottas may not get to use strategy to attack Hamilton”

  1. Funny how RPs gamble to upset the factory team’s strategy really only helps MB. Now Hamilton and bottas don’t need to box out faster starting cars right behind.

    However looking at how strong Perez was at the end last time they may have to watch for a RP undercut and compromise the second place car to stop it. Especially given the risk of being on the receiving end of uncover-able late switch to soft tires like last year. With a couple safety cars they may not be able to just run away from RP and cruise.

    1. Raymond Umbara
      19th July 2020, 2:52

      The RP was miles off in quali. I doubt theyd be able to stick within undercut range come pitstop timing

      1. No they wont. At best Lance will strol one on the inside of first lap.

        That is the last time they will be close.

  2. Honestly given Hamilton’s usual pace advantage in the race, if he leads into turn 1 I don’t think it matters what strategy Bottas runs to try to beat him. Maybe some rain at the right time will throw a curve ball and make things interesting, but otherwise I think it’ll be the P3-P7 race where the interest is.

    As an aside, looking at the qualifying sector times both Mercs were incredibly consistent, Hamilton just a fraction faster in each. I was impressed how close Bottas got on his final run considering he was 3 tenths off on the first runs.

    1. So they could race in Austria but not here. Gee, I wonder what the difference is..

  3. Can anything stop the Mercedes drivers in Hungary? – Not on pure pace.
    Who do you think will take the final podium position? – Either RP-driver.

  4. Looks like we need at least two safety cars and two wrong strategies for a little bit excitement.

  5. Generally only Ham is allowed to fight Bottas, that said the team clearly did not want to see any fighting in Austria, a rare time when Bottas actually got favoured.

    1. I didn’t know Bottas wasn’t allowed to fight Hamilton. So why does Ham bother to build a gap when he is in the lead? Very poor driving from Ham if he puts undue wear on the tyres to build a gap he doesn’t need.

    2. @peartree Hamilton is also not allowed to fight Bottas through an alternative strategy. This has been a favour for Bottas that has been in place since he got beaten by Hamilton being able to go much longer in hist first stint and take a different strategy and the win during Silverstone 2019.

      Only Bottas benefits from this since he’s never able to attack during a race while in the odd case that Bottas is actually ahead he’s usually closely followed by Hamilton.

      1. @f1osaurus In Silverstone 2019, Bottas lost the lead when a safety car was deployed after his pit stop, giving Hamilton a cheap stop. Hamilton may have won anyway, but he would have had to make a pass on track.

        1. @keithedin Bottas still had to stop again, so Hamilton would have won anyway. The amazing thing was that everyone except Hamilton and Vettel thought a 2-stop strategy was the way to go, when in reality it wasn’t. That’s why Bottas was put on new mediums at his first stop, when switching to hards would have given him more options.

          1. @keithedin Exactly what F1 in figures said. Hamilton stretching his first stint to enable a 2-stop was what won him the race regardless. The safety car juist made it easier for the Hamilton dtractors to say that he was “lucky”

            Either way, Wollf understood and stated that they would not allow the following driver to go for another strategy again.

  6. Hopefully some rain will force their hand and allow even minor variance in strategy.

    Seriously, there is nothing to defend in terms of other teams, its a dead cert 1-2 for the title.
    Just let them race and choose their own strategies. Surely a win for Hamilton means more if he has to fight for it.

    1. i actually would prefer is merc really did that, let each side of the garage decide their own strategy.

    2. So the optimum strategy is a one stop. Therefore put Bottas on a sub-optimal strategy?

  7. Bottas is probably advised against attacking in first corner, which would give him slight chance of winning (not sure he would manage to keep the lead anyway). Finishing order for this race is sealed before race even started (firs two places al least). Oh, and they will rev down cars with 40 laps to spare. Really exciting and we suckers pay to watch this.
    Can’t they yell and throw chairs at each other after the race, like they do in WWE.

    1. @geekracer2000 You are completely right, we should see wrestlers throw chairs at Ferrari and Red Bull for doing such an incredibly poor job.

      1. So…you like to watch processional race? Yuck.

        1. @geekracer2000 Now, like you said, I would rather that Ferrari and Red Bull also put in some effort so we get an exciting race.

  8. Come on Valtteri, make it interesting. Please..
    We can’t have the only car that can challenge the lead car to run in formation for 70 laps.

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