Wolff “would be more critical” of Bottas if he’d cost Hamilton victory

2021 Spanish Grand Prix

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Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff says he would be “more critical” of Valtteri Bottas’s slow reaction to team orders in yesterday’s Spanish Grand Prix if it had cost them victory.

Bottas admitted he didn’t react as quickly as he could have done to his team’s instruction to let Lewis Hamilton overtake him, while his team mate was chasing race leader Max Verstappen.

Although he lost over a second passing his team mate, Hamilton eventually caught and passed Verstappen to win the race. Wolff, a former racing driver, understood Bottas’ reluctance to make way for Hamilton.

“Racing drivers’ instincts are what they are,” he said. “We would have wished that maybe, because Lewis was on a totally different strategy, he would have come through faster, a bit quicker. But at the end, we scored the result.

“I can relate to Valtteri that he had a tough day again and you’re annoyed. If it would have lost the race, I would be more critical. But at the end it’s something we can learn of. And it goes both directions, and this is what we will be discussing, but in a very camaraderie-like way.”

Spanish GP review: How Mercedes left Red Bull unable to respond to Hamilton’s victory charge
Bottas was advised several times not to hold Hamilton up before being caught by his team mate. Hamilton said he was unaware of the instructions Mercedes had issued before he passed Bottas at turn 10.

“Honestly I didn’t know that he had a message so in my mind I was like ‘we’re racing’. And that’s totally fine for me, particularly early on in this part of the season so in my mind I was ‘so I’ve got to get close and hope for an overtake’.

“Then obviously when we went into turn 10, we were on massively different strategies so I was going to get him at some stage because I had much better tyres. And we were going into turn 10 and I thought there was a gap there and I wasn’t quite sure. Then there was a gap and Valtteri was completely fair.”

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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
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35 comments on “Wolff “would be more critical” of Bottas if he’d cost Hamilton victory”

  1. Compare and contrast Wolf’s rage at Russell and his demand he take no risks near a Mercedes running in 8th and his almost flippant dismissal of Bottas risking a Mercedes victory by forcing Hamilton into an unnecessary overtake after slowing him down.

    Has Bottas got Wolff cornered somehow?

    1. James Coulee
      10th May 2021, 9:19

      I suspect the decision has been made already and Wolf is just composing the narrative to justify why they’ll keep Bottas next year. I hope I’m wrong.

      1. Or the exact opposite – Bottas only ignored team orders because he knows he won’t be there next season?

        In the meantime, Wolff doesn’t want Bottas to “check out” and lose the team WCC points (which pay the bills).

        1. Makes plenty of sense. I agree with you 100%

          Reply moderated
      2. Don’t see where you’re getting that from

        Toto is just been totally professional in his approach and clearly didn’t like Bottas disobeying team orders. However, he is not going to fan the flames of the already ridiculous theories about Bottas’s future

        I don’t see Bottas been there next season, unless he ends up 2nd (or 1st) in The Championship

        1. Tommy Scragend
          10th May 2021, 18:33

          I don’t see Bottas been there next season, unless he ends up 2nd (or 1st) in The Championship

          And there’s about as much chance of him doing that as there is of me winning the Monaco Grand Prix.

          The only way Bottas will finish higher than third in any race is if either or both of Hamilton and Verstappen have a problem. He’s over a race win adrift of Verstappen already.

    2. Well one incident caused a million pounds worth of damage, awful PR between two Mercedes program drivers and NIL points for one of their cars. The other cost a second of extra laptime so you’re being a little dramatic but ok.

    3. One of them needs moral support, and the other doesn’t. Simple as! Lewis playing the same tune, for the same reason.

      And quite likely Bottas doing that uncharacteristic silly, sulky ‘own race’ thing because he knows.

      1. Spot on!! Russell needed his wings clipping. We all understand just how soul destroying it must be having to drive that Williams, after having a taste of the Mercedes

        It’s actually excellent management from Toto. He’s refusing to have any prima donnas in his team (witness his frank discussion with Lewis at the end of the 2016 season, when frankly Hamilton was a bit of a prat mid-seasoon) and his message to Russell was simply reminding him of that

        For me, it was significant that Russell was apologetic days later with that ‘must behave better / bad example’ narrative. I don’t seen him coming out with this is Toto has told him, he has no future

    4. As others note, the consequences were extremely different.

      The event with Russell cost the team money, which could be critical in a tight title battle with a fixed budget, and caused a large amount of acrimonious bickering in the press.

      In this case, ultimately the negative impact was negligible – in that case, given it didn’t cost anything, it’s not really worth getting that angry about.

      1. And to be honest it does Mercedes’ image no harm at all for their drivers to race each other. Even if it does cost them the race. When Hamilton and Rosberg took each other out in Spain, clearly the team were furious. But for everyone else, it was a sign of an actual championship battle at least.

    5. Bottas, driving for a team that claims they rarely, if ever, use team, orders, held up his teammate by slightly over a second.

      Russell took a risky opportunity to make a pass that was uncertain given track conditions, took out his car and a factory team car, and blamed the other driver. All of which is bad enough, and then you remember that Wolff is his manager, and Russell is a member of the Mercedes junior team.

      You’re comparing apples with hand grenades, and trying to work up a conspiracy out of it.

  2. James Coulee
    10th May 2021, 9:20

    (Just to add a though: maybe it’s Hamilton that has Wolf cornered in that regard.)

  3. Would have loved to see this Bottas from the get go. Now it is too late once again

    1. What Bottas? The dude who’s race pace is so pathetic he was racing a Williams a short while ago? 😂

    2. The Bottas that’s apparently driving “the fastest car” but still manages to finish 30s behind the race winner?

      The Bottas that’s apparently driving “the fastest car” but hasn’t finished ahead of Verstappen for nine races (ignoring DNFs)?

      1. Yeah, thats what I am saying. Would be nice if he could get in the mix. Same goes for Perez. But Bottas just cant drive. He is instrumental for Toto but he will expire end of this season

      2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        10th May 2021, 13:19

        @scbriml Is it a fact that Bottas has finished behind Verstappen in the past 9 races? The new Bottas 5.0 is more like a copy of Bottas 1.0.

  4. Precisely what I envisioned.

  5. When Massa was asked to move aside for Alonso in Hockenheim it was not well received by the fans and FIA, fined with 100.000 dollar. You have to let them race.

    Welcome in 2021 were we are critical at a teammate that doesn’t give up their spot so easily this early in the season. Just let them race Toto, instead manipulation the race and giving horrible statements that has nothing to do anymore with fair racing.

    1. @ruben Completely different scenario that was. Did you see Merc ordering Bottas out the way in Portimao? Ferrari were 1 and 2 and swapped drivers on same strategy when it was also illegal to do so. This was not the same atall. Look at Perez getting out of Max’s way compared to Bottas.

      Reply moderated
    2. As long as you agree Verstappen should be made to race Perez when on different strategies then sure.

    3. @ruben That was two cars on the same strategy and Massa was in front of Alonso on merit. Also, at the time team orders were illegal. The same outcry was heard when Mercedes gave the (then legal!) team order for Bottas let Hamilton go in front and protect him from a faster Vettel behind in Russia 2018.

      Completely different scenario. In this case Hamilton was trying to attack Verstappen by doing a pitstop extra. So of course he drops back behind Bottas because of that. Bottas should not even need to be told to let Hamilton past in this scenario.

      I didn’t hear any team orders for Norris when Ricciardo also made an early stop and had to go past Norris. No crying about how unfair such a thing is, no unnecessary holdup from Norris or tough talk.

    4. And in 2010, team orders were illegal– hence the fine. And team orders were only outlawed after Barichello was ordered to let Schumacher win, and pulled over on the last lap of the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix to let Schumacher by– and Schumacher was so embarrassed he put Barichello on the top step of the podium, and moved to the second step. For which Ferrari was fined $100,000 USD.

      But “don’t hold up your teammate” is a far cry from “Alonso is faster than you, please confirm you understand this message. Sorry about that.”, since the ban was on orders that would alter the outcome of a race. And there’s absolutely no evidence that Bottas blocking Hamilton (or not blocking) would have changed the race outcome, because Hamilton was that much faster.

      False equivalences are false.

  6. He could always phone Masi: “hE Is mAkInG Us lOsE ThE PoSiTiOn!11”

    :-D

    1. Ahah, indeed, seemed like alonso.

  7. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    10th May 2021, 14:24

    For better or worse, Bottas is part of this winning team and has brought out incredible performances out of Lewis. Toto is definitely aware of that and he knows the effect that changing one variable in the recipe can have. In a way, this is similar to the Ronaldo/Benzema situation at Real Madrid. Benzema looked completely down and out by the end of Ronaldo’s stay at Real playing second fiddle. Once Ronaldo left, it took him 2 years to become the old Benzema and, like him or not, he’s an exceptional player. Not the best in the world but definitely a super talented player.

    Bottas is suffering now but he’s been knocked out in 12 rounds and still seems to have some fight in him. The team is cleaning out and delivering incredible performances.

  8. Mercedes wants to win every race, they don’t care who’s driving the car. If somehow Bottas became inspired when Lewis tried to pass him, went much faster, caught and passed Verstappen to win the race, Toto would have been thrilled with him.

    1. @greenflag after Hamilton stopped the First time, Bottas was instructed by the team to follow him in catching Verstappen. Instead of catching the 6s gap though it actually grew larger thus ending his right to challenge for the win. Bottas only had his own race pace to blame for the order being given. Mercedes have always given preference to a driver with a chance to win because thats what matters First to them as a team.

  9. People tend to be critical of Schumacher being favored by team orders.

    This is now looking a lot like it.

    We can even justify it by.. Bottas was and normally is much slower.
    Also there is a distinct lack of Russel in second car, this is fast becoming unsporting, and it looks like easy championships/wins for Lewis.

    I predict with Red Bull being so close, we will see a lot more of this. Maybe Bottas has already resigned to his #2 role, what we saw here was a bit of flailing around. But in reality we all know where this train is going.

    1. He was on a different pit strategy. Why should he hold up his own teammate?

    2. @jureo How was this favoring Hamilton by team orders? They were on different strategies. Bottas was cruising to a P3 finish while Hamilton was fighting for the win and at that point Bottas was essentially a full pit stop behind. What’s the point of holding up your team mate in such a situation?

      Ricciardo also went past Norris like this. Did Norris even have to be told to let Ricciardo back past?

      1. Both are team orders favouring faster driver.

  10. Michael Rhodes
    10th May 2021, 19:23

    Bottas was sulky because he knows he won’t be racing for Mercedes next year – Russell will be joining and as lewis says he wants contract negotiations done my mid season, Bottas knows he is out of a Job, so he is trying to make the point. Though you think he might be considering future employers view of his behavior unless he just plans to retire- I assume he is a very wealthy Man by know

    Reply moderated
  11. If I was Mr. Toto Wolff, I would give “a personal foul” (a term from basketbal) to Valtteri. One personal foul is nothing bad, but five personal fouls and you are out of the game.

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