Mercedes admit they called Bottas in too early for final pit stop

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff admitted the team slipped up by calling Valtteri Bottas in too early for his final pit stop at the end of the race.

Bottas was running third behind Max Verstappen when Mercedes brought him in to fit fresh tyres in order to make a bid for the fastest lap bonus point. But because they did so with two laps to go, it created an opportunity for Red Bull to do the same with Verstappen.

“We had a little bit of a stupid moment,” Wolff admitted. “It should have been the next lap. But, learn and move on.”

Despite the error, Bottas still scored the point for fastest lap. He set a 1’18.685 on the penultimate tour which Verstappen beat by 16 thousandths of a second on the final lap. However the Red Bull driver strayed beyond track limits at turn 14, and his lap time was deleted, handing the bonus point to Bottas.

Race winner Lewis Hamilton never had large enough lead over his rivals to do the same. He decided not to attempt to set a quicker time on worn tyres, deciding it wasn’t worth the risk.

“There are days when it’s necessary to take the extra risk to take the extra [point] but today wasn’t one of those,” said Hamilton. “I think it was just about making sure we finished strong and bag the points, because every point does count.

“I’d heard that Valtteri had stopped and then I heard that Max had stopped so it was going to be close between the two. At the time, Max had obviously got the point, which takes a little bit off the great result that we had but obviously it didn’t turn out in the end.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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42 comments on “Mercedes admit they called Bottas in too early for final pit stop”

  1. On the other hand, Red Bull basically gave it away by that silly strategy to let Perez cruise around 1.5 to 2s a lap slower for 20 laps in a fruitful attempt to hinder Hamilton. If they hadn’t sacrificed Perez so uselessly they could/should have had the fastest lap with Perez.

    But yeah, calling Bottas in one lap too early wasn’t very clever from Mercedes, but then they thought they needed 2 laps to warm up the soft tyres. So at the time it would have made sense.

    1. @f1osaurus I get your point about Perez but they could have got lucky with a Safety Car or VSC.

      1. I think I agree there @keithcollantine; sure in hindsight @f1osaurus is right it would have been better for them to trust Perez to just get the job done on hards sooner, but had a safety car come, they’d have been on for a 1-2 or 1-3 (and maybe they also don’t yet really have internalized that they now seem to have a functioning 2nd driver in that car?)

        1. In hindsight all decisions will be wrong or could have been better.
          The problem with some fans is they only start to think in hindsight.

          1. Yeah the first poster makes no sense to me regarding Perez other than to do the usual which is try and discredit RBR whenever possible, and claim Perez is a victim on the team. That I am aware of teams do not base their overall strategy during the race on getting that fastest lap point, but nonetheless Perez did have an opportunity for it by being put on softs so late in the race. Otherwise he was doing fine going long as he did, with the team never risking his fourth for him and then. And as Keith points out, since he was able to go so long while the team could see that wasn’t risking him a position, he could have benefitted from a VSC if not a full safety car. And yeah, if he could have cost LH a few seconds that’s fair game too.

  2. Again, this illustrates the problem with the FLAP point: unless the lead driver has pulled out a massive track advantage, it favors the drivers in the faster teams who haven’t performed as well yet have a big gap behind them. A bonus point for coming second (or third or fourth).

    1. A lot of the time yes, but not every time. I remember Silverstone in 2019 when Hamilton, on 30-ish lap old hards set the FLAP on the final lap, beating Bottas who had pitted for fresh softs about 5 laps beforehand. Sometimes it is testament to an incredible bit of skillful driving. But I agree, most of the time it is just an opportunity for slower drivers to try and recover something for them and the team after a disappointing race.

      1. @randommallard As someone else said here a day or two ago, it also detracts from the end of the race, or gets lost, because there are other scraps for actual positions elsewhere, not just at the front. I’d rather be watching those last battles for 9th and 10th than someone doing an artificial fast lap, often without anyone else challenging (Bottas and Verstappen both going for a FLAP were an exception not the rule).

        1. I have to say that to me yesterday felt very gimmicky (had Hamilton come in too, it would have been ‘perfectly’ odd), and I was glad to see Hamilton just drive on and finish the race.

          @david-br, on your point that it favours those behind (unless the winner is anyway in a different leage), that’s not a bad thing perse, and I guess I found it sort of interesting that in last race, Hamilton, despite not winning, managed to stay ahead of Verstappen in the WDC by getting that point (also bc. it got him to 44, his driver’s number :) Admittedly though, had the FLAP not been there, he’d be ahead in the tiebreak too as he did the higher result sooner by winning the 1st race (if I recall those rules correctly, that is).

          1. I do kind of agree with both of you @bosyber and @david-br. It can feel a bit gimmick-y at points. I don’t mind it, as I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with rewarding the car that can go quickest in one lap on Sunday, but agree that I would rather see a fight in the midfield than following the fastest lap. Now they have the onboards ‘in picture’ in the timing tower, perhaps they could put the FLAP onboard on that small camera while focussing the main pictures on any on-track battles. That’s also the advantage of something like Sky Race Control (if that still exists?) or the Pit Lane Channel on F1TV, in that you can get the main pictures and 2+ more camera angles as well.

            In terms of tie-breaking @boysber, that method isn’t officially in the Sporting Regulations, but one clause in there states that if they have equal results/points, tiebreak would be done on ‘such criteria as [the FIA] thinks fit’, and I can imagine the one you mentioned being a suitable criteria.

          2. @bosyber I think it’s pitting to put on fresh tyres that annoys me most. It just seems even more meaningless. Lewis did the right thing, I really wouldn’t trust Mercedes 100% not to mess up the pit stop. Red Bull, maybe, they’re exceptionally good.

          3. someone or something
            3rd May 2021, 16:21

            @bosyber

            I was glad to see Hamilton just drive on and finish the race

            @david-br

            Lewis did the right thing

            Erm, Hamilton/Mercedes didn’t really “do the right thing”, they just did not make a catastrophic mistake.
            Verstappen pitted for fresh tyres on the very last lap that allowed him to complete a flying lap before the race ended.
            Therefore, if Hamilton had reacted to Verstappen, his only lap on fresh tyres would’ve been the outlap, some 20 seconds off the pace no matter how hard he pushed.
            Conversely, if Hamilton had decided to chase the fastest lap by pitting at the end of lap 64, Verstappen would’ve seen him entering the pit lane, would’ve said “thank you very much”, and continued without pitting, collecting an easy 25 points instead of chasing an elusive 19th …

            By the way, that was the whole point of the article. Verstappen was only able to challenge for fastest lap because Mercedes blundered by pitting Bottas a lap too early, handing Verstappen an opportunity on the following lap.

          4. ian dearing
            3rd May 2021, 17:51

            I thought people were missing that @someone or something. Max was behind Ham and called in on the penultimate lap. If they had called in Ham after the Max & Bottas message he would have entered the pits on the final lap. And even he couldnt do a fastest lap from there!

          5. @someone or something True I’d forgotten that bit. :oP

      2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        3rd May 2021, 15:32

        I think there have only been 3 or 4 times that the lead driver has managed to get this without pitting for new tyres. Pretty sure 2 or 3 of them were hamilton in the last 2 seasons, then bottas got the first one in Australia 2019.

        1. Yeah I should have clarified this line better:

          Sometimes it is testament to an incredible bit of skillful driving.

          Sometimes it is. But not often, and it is almost always the ‘we have a free pitstop for an extra point’ routine

          1. The reality is that on those moments Mercedes turned up the engine so even with old tires ham was then able to better the time.

        2. @david-br @randommallard @bosyber Yeah I too agree about the gimmicky feel it had to it, and you’ve all covered off the key points/issues with it, and would only just like to add that I wonder if in the new chapter we may not see these gulfs of time between cars so much, and if indeed the fastest lap will come in a more genuine way more often, rather than simply by a last minute pit for softs.

          Sure it adds some excitement in a way, and to me that is yet again just an indicator that with cars that can’t pass each other much of the time without drs etc etc…with these cars…there seems a need to spice up the show and not have races end with cars basically settled in and resigned to their positions in a procession. The single point is a motivator to race when the motivation should be cars too close behind to do anything but.

          1. All good points @robbie, yep let’s hope the rules from next year work near enough as intended (and not serve to yet again spread out the field as one or a few get it much better done than the others).

  3. They didn’t call Bottas in to get the fastest lap. They called Bottas in 1 lap too early to tempt Verstappen in on the next lap to leave it clear for Hamilton to win the race without any pressure from Red bull on the final few laps.

    Reply moderated
    1. I disagree. If Max/RBR felt he had a chance for the win he and the team simply would have let VB have the point. The extra points from first to second would have been well worth ceding fastest lap. There was no time in the last laps for Max to get close to LH let alone get by. So they tried to minimize the points difference to LH instead.

  4. As I said yesterday I still hate the point for fastest lap as I just don’t think the fastest lap warrants an extra point, Especially when you have situations like yesterday where drivers are pitting with 2-3 laps to go for a fresh set of softs which makes the fastest lap an even less relevant stat than it already is.

    1. You’re missing the point (he he). It’s not about who’s faster, it’s about adding to your point tally and denying your opponent that extra point.

      1. Plus the chance things go upside down during the stop and the consequences this has over getting just 1 point. That should add to the entertainment. Overall I’d say no against a continuation of the concept however.

      2. Plus the chance things go upside down during the stop and the consequences this has over trying to get just 1 point. That should add to the entertainment. Overall I’d say no against a continuation of the concept however.

    2. @stefmeister Agree, it has such a circus feel to it, but I get worried about all of it when even Brundle thinks it’s good entertainment.

    3. Fresh tires is a bit a stretch. Bottas had fresh tires, Ver only a used free practice set.

      1. Davethechicken
        4th May 2021, 21:55

        I didn’t realise Max was on used softs for his attempt at the fastest lap.
        Karun Chandook had a very interesting simultaneous side by side comparison of Maxs final (disallowed lap) of the race and Bottas’s penultimate and fastest race lap. (on sky sports website). Max’s time a couple of hundreds better than Bottas.
        Max missed two apexes but still had the faster lap, on old rubber as well. Also he had reported a problem with 3rd gear. He ran wide on 14 and lap disallowed for Flap.
        Bottas much neater and more precise, no obvious mistake at all.
        The only logical conclusion is the RBR car is actually the fastest out there, Max did a poor lap(by his standards) and was still faster than a very precise Merc lap on new rubber.

  5. Mercedes do seem to be using a lot of energy finding excuses for Bottas. Wolff seems determined to find a way to justify keeping him next year.

    But that is not sensible as the big changes in 2022 will make previous pairings on the current regulations no more indicative of success than a changed pairing.

    Keeping Bottas this year when the regulations changed little made sense as it kept a reasonably harmonious driver pairing together with a lead car and compliant wingman. But next year with so much change who is to say even Hamilton will be able to handle it and stay not top. So a change of driver for the regulation change seems no more risky than any other option wherever the team is in the field and I am expecting lots of changes on the grid for the start of 2022.

    1. ian dearing
      3rd May 2021, 17:58

      Seen it on a few unofficial F1 posts and forums that include MissedApex; and they seem to believe Bottas has already been told he won’t be retained. Which may be a reason Wolff was quite happy for Ham to say this weekend he is in for the long haul with Mercedes, and why Toto gave Bottas the ‘we are still behind you’ message to Bottas over the radio. Then again; it could be nonsense.

    2. It’s not about justifying the decision to retain Bottas or sign him for next season (let’s not forget that Mercedes tried to sign Russell, but Williams said “No!”), it’s about encouraging him because the points he scores will be vital in the WCC.

      I will be very surprised if Bottas is a Mercedes driver next season.

      1. For sure, you three above. I have been saying this since all through last year. I will be shocked if VB is retained next year and not replaced by GR. I don’t know about VB having already been told he won be retained, and I doubt it, because TW needs him at his best for this season. TW sided more with him with the GR incident, but did point out that VB shouldn’t have been fighting with a Williams anyway. And now we have VB getting pole and that is still not enough for him to beat LH and MV.

        VB needs to go, after this season, and GR needs to be in that seat while continuity is less crucial given the huge change in cars coming. He can learn from mentor LH. He can be started off on a clean slate getting engrained with the new cars from day one, and the team engrained to him. I simply cannot see any sense whatsoever in leaving GR twisting in the wind, as well when he is out of contract at Williams after this year anyway. To me it is a no-brainer for GR to Mercedes. VB has had his chances and is still squandering the car. Mercedes will need an heir apparent when LH finally does retire. GR is it.

        1. Inseed @robbie; also, had to laugh at myself a bit, I read your ‘GR’ and with just having read about Grosjean, Romain getting his Merc test, read it him getting the drive :)

  6. Mercedes doesn’t need an excuse for keeping Bottas. He does what He must do. Takes point from Verstapen without taking much from Hamilton. Yeah, sometimes he doesn’t do it right. But most, if not all pilots better than him would put more pressure on Hamilton. Would be great for us. But wouldn’t be good for Mercedes. Look at Riccardo and Verstapen at RB. Even with competitive Ferrari, Bottas helped to get constructors’ title. Why fix what isn’t broken?

    Botas surely dreams about being champion. But I think he knows that it won’t happen while Hamilton is there. And he hopes to win with Mercedes around him. Until then he is well payd and is where almost anyone would like to be. He doesn’t want to be another Barrichello.

    1. Agreed, a wingman that takes a win from the champion contender is not desirable. Bottas is the perfect wingman and always available for a team order. Even the passing by ham looked suspicious. Bottas defended on the dirty side, very strange.

    2. I agree completely. as long as Mercedes gets 1st in both Championships then I’d be very surprised if they let Bottas go

      1. I disagree as per my comment above.

        1. And I agree with you. It has worked very well until know. But after this year Mercedes needs to look forward. Also, Bottas is starting to lose too many points to Verstappen now and will undoubtedly also start losing points to Perez at a certain moment. The set up has ran its course.

          1. Yup, indeed @robbie to those that say Bottas is an ideal wingman, don’t you think @nickthegreek, erikje and Andunlucas that Bottas almost completely failed to take any points away from Verstappen last weekend, with the only one he did take being solely due to Verstappen making an error so his FLAP didn’t count.

            Had Bottas been able to battle with Verstappen for position (instead of just being overtaken) while Hamilton did his own race, I’d agree, but so far, it has twice been 1-2 HAM/VER, and VER/HAM, and that’s before we recall how Bottas’ Imola weekend went.

            I was a bit annoyed with myself on Saturday for not following my hunch about Bottas and pole in the prediction, but in the end my main error was underestimating HAM/Merc. this weekend versus Verstappen/RBR. Bottas was there, but yet again couldn’t make hay.

          2. @bobyser yes you are right but it’s just one race. there have been races in the past where BOttas has dropped the ball but over the course of the season he gets results

  7. Davethechicken
    4th May 2021, 22:05

    I am going to go all out and say it will be VB and GR in the Merc for 2022!!!

    1. Davethechicken
      4th May 2021, 22:06

      Sorry Meant to reply to Adunluncas, Martyrdom and Erijke in above thread speculating on VBs future

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