Bottas surprised Wolff suggested he was at fault in botched Monaco GP pit stop

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Valtteri Bottas admitted he was surprised by comments made by Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff regarding the pit stop which put him out of the Monaco Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver, who ran second in the early stages of the race, was forced to retire when the team were unable to remove his front-right wheel during a pit stop. Mercedes discovered the teeth of the wheel nut were machined off during the stop which thwarted their efforts to remove it.

Wolff told Auto Motor und Sport Bottas had “stopped a little early” in the pit box which meant the mechanic applied the wheel gun to the nut at an angle, contributing to the problem. Bottas said he “was surprised” by Wolff’s remarks and is sure he lined up correctly when he came in.

“I saw the video and, for me, it was pretty spot-on where I stopped,” he said. “So I was quite surprised.”

He has not discussed the comments with Wolff: “Not really, [we] kind of left it there.”

Bottas admitted it took him some time to come to terms with the disappointment of retiring from the race, in which he fell 58 points behind winner and championship leader Max Verstappen.

“Personally for me it took a couple of days, I have to say, because it’s not been the best start of the season,” he said. “That kind of an issue, when it hits you, and obviously when your target is to get some good points, it’s disappointing.

“But I got over it, I’ve found my ways to get through it and I’m keen to race again.”

The wheel was eventually removed on the Tuesday after the race at Mercedes’ factory. The team has painstakingly studied the failed pit stop to guard against a repeat, Bottas added.

“The main thing, first, was it was nice to hear when we got it off,” he said. “And of course, we as a team had to maximise the learning from it.

“There was a detailed analysis, of course, what happened, why it happened, how can we prevent that ever happening again in the future. So it’s really all about learning the issue and correcting it. So I think the team fully understands it now and we’ve made corrections for that and hopefully don’t have to experience it again.”

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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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69 comments on “Bottas surprised Wolff suggested he was at fault in botched Monaco GP pit stop”

  1. I’m seeing a car about 15cm shy of the mark in that picture.

    1. I’m seeing Valtteri’s last season at Merc with that remark.

    2. Front wheels were lined up with the marks, back wheels weren’t. Seems like whoever paints the yellow boxes doesn’t do it to the specific wheel base of the Mercedes car – not that it matters much. If anything he’s a little close to the right hand side but I looked at other pitstops like Max’s and he was very similarly positioned. So pretty sure Bottas was within the margin of error and the team should have been able to made what little adjustments were necessary. Just unlucky for Bottas on this occasion.

      1. A driver needs to be able to adjust the wheelbase based on conditions.

        1. Jaahhhahahha … Who’s yer pa?

    3. Coventry Climax
      3rd June 2021, 12:01

      There’s virtually not a single video left on Youtube that actally plays, instead of giving you ‘video unavailable’.
      There’s many occurences where people try to get video’s – of themselves(!)- removed and can’t get it done. There’s legislation altered over these situations, but still it’s not easy at all. Then how so that Merc(?) manages to get this done so easily, so fast? And just as importantly; for what reason? ‘Are they trying to hide something?’, is a question that pops to mind easily. If you take a very good look at the picture above this article, you can see a bit of the yellow mark with the left front wheel, and that certainly looks to be ‘pretty spot-on’ to me too. There’s other pictures and video’s from above, where you can see that the yellow ‘wheel’-markings are not the same lenth apart as the actual wheelbase, so getting all four wheels on their mark is in fact not possible.
      No, he isn’t exactly centered in the box, but he’s not more off than the average pitstop, any team, any driver, not “even” Hamilton’s. “Even” between quotes, because some (even mr. Wolff) would make it appear that he’s the benchmark, which is nonsensical ofcourse.
      So, ‘surprise’ is a pretty mild word used by Bottas. Not that I’m a fan of Bottas – or any particular driver- but personally, I’d be ‘pretty urinated-off’ being accused like this, by my own team-boss and former manager.

      1. Coventry Climax
        3rd June 2021, 12:05

        You beat me to it, @Mark. result of a -my- lenghty answer, apparently.

        1. Coventry Climax
          3rd June 2021, 12:06

          Where did that name come from? I meant @Keithedin ofcourse.

    4. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      3rd June 2021, 13:04

      That is still no reason for this error. Stroll constantly missed his marks last season and was one of the worst drivers for lining up neatly, and the reason it didn’t get brought up was because the team adjusted to his position and made no error. The error was by mercedes and not Bottas. Even Maldonado once collided with the front jack man due to over heated breaks. He missed his pit box by over a metre i believe. And I think they still got the job done in under 10 seconds.

    5. or in other words pretty spot on. the gun guy had to adjust his position and stumbled on the wheel guy, he applied the gun at an angle but I’m still stunned the wheel didn’t come of, it didn’t help that he reversed the gun and ruined it even further.
      IMO there was something wrong with that right front corner

      1. @peartree I think the gun reverses automatically.

        1. @justrhysism you are right, mercs old video on their wheel guns showcases how that works.

  2. Hmmmm, is Wolf looking for reasons to justify bringing in George Russell? If so he is really trying too hard…. Bottas wasnt at fault.

    1. I don’t really know, he seemed to overdefend bottas’ underperformance before when having a better option in russel; this time bottas plain outperformed hamilton and he stopped defending him!

      1. I find Toto’s behaviour strange too regarding Valterri. When he underperforms and is miles behind Lewis, Toto defends him. But the moment he is ahead and even if Merc screws up, he blames him. Strange..

        1. Toto is feeling the pressure and that is something he is not used to.
          I will increase further…

  3. I might be getting ahead of myself a bit, but between this and Barcelona (holding up Lewis for what was ultimately three inconsequential corners).

    Has he been told he’s not being renewed? Toto is about as ‘professional’ as they come, I doubt he would just pop by in October and say “no deal next year, sorry”. It seems a lot more likely he’d tell him sooner and give him the best chance for any future opportunities (is Toto still his agent?).

    Valterri just seems to have step outside of the ‘party line’ this season, for whatever reason.

    1. A number of sources have said he knows he is out at the end of the season. Or has hinted as such.
      And if you want proof you can do no better than a Croft style statistic.
      Hams first teammate did one year with Ham.
      Second did two.
      Third three.
      Fourth four.
      And Bottas is in his fifth season with Ham.

      What more evidence do you want?

    2. Coventry Climax
      3rd June 2021, 12:21

      @Bernasaurus: to quote you: as ‘professional’ as they come.
      Not sure why you put that word between quotes, I hope it’s sarcasm. Managers putting of their employees like that does seem to have become the ‘professional’ norm these days, but to me that is like the worst thing you can do as a manager, if you supposedly are the person to keep the whole team’s spirits up and all noses pointed in the same direction.
      Employees are treated like batteries these days; easy to change and dispose off, cheap and available everywhere.
      Bottas may not have been performing brilliantly, but he’s served your purpose very well, mr Wolff, and you’ve willingly prolonged his contract these last years, for exactly that reason. Saying these things and doing what your doing is not chic at all. It’s downright low.
      It’s not about whether it’s the right thing to do, it’s about the way he’s doing it.

      1. Sorry, that is poorly phrased and I totally agree with what you say. I think when I say Toto is more ‘professional’, I mean that he’s not acted in the same way that someone like Briatore has, and I can see him letting Valterri know as soon as possible and them agreeing to keep it outside of the public gaze until necessary.

        Obviously everyone has their own interpretation of what ‘professional’ is, Toto seems to have a good relationship with his employees and there must be a reason for that, and the results speak for themselves. I think I’m just saying I can imagine Toto giving him as much notice as possible.

        I would. Of course we’re only speculating.

  4. I thought Mercedes were all about “win as a team, lose as a team”. Guess not…

    1. That, or Bottas is not longer seen as part of the team :-)

    2. Sadly, that only applies for Lewis. Have you seen the faces when Valterri is somehow on pole/wins and its Lewis 2nd?

      1. Chris Horton
        3rd June 2021, 18:11

        Yep, but interesting doesn’t apply FROM Lewis.

        “The team definitely have a lot to learn after this weekend” .

  5. At Sakhir Mercedes had a communication failure creating a disastrous pit stop. It has happened to RedBull previously, most notably at Monaco. So there is peril in just getting team and tyres ready for the car, communication risks in getting the car in at the right time, and then there is the actual tyre fitting.

    The power of these wheel guns, the urgency to attach them to speed up the pit stop, the low bevel on the nut and the angle it is approached all contribute to the problem. Because a wheel change is so pressured a slight misalignment on car or gun or wheel can delay or destroy a pit stop.

    A high pressure minefield.

    Dealing successfully with these risks is part of what we expect the professionals in a top team to deliver. Here it wasn’t. And for Mercedes a tyre change failure twice in five races. That is serious.

    1. Coventry Climax
      3rd June 2021, 12:26

      And all the more reason for their ‘top’manager to keep the ‘brown goo’ between their own four walls, instead of making accusations publicly.

    2. Jackson Storm
      3rd June 2021, 17:16

      None of those “mistakes” happen to Lewis… That’s less than interesting.

  6. For a boss to make a public negative comment about one individual on the team is pretty shocking. So really that’s the story, not whether he was perfectly in the box or not.

  7. This botched pitstop wasn’t Valtteri’s fault to me.

    1. That wasnt the 1st botched pitstop by Mercedes for Bottas, that team keeps messing pit stops(for both their drivers).

      1. Not really, it’s almost every time Bottas that get hurt by it.

        1. Yes, because they have different pit crews and ofc they give the competent one to hamilton, but even so they managed slightly slow pit stops for hamilton too.

  8. Even if he did make a mistake, how come your record winning team cannot adjust to something that could easily happen at every single stop? no one has ever seen a wheel so stuck they had to ship the car back to the factory to get it off. Not in F1, Indy, WRC, Le Mans or whatever…

    seems ridiculous to blame the driver, even if the “mistake” contributed to the problem.

  9. Yeah quite surprising. How did the other mechanics manage, if VB stopped ‘a little early?’ How do mechanics manage in general, for this must happen a lot. First time I’ve heard that it is so crucial for a driver to nail it for a mechanic can’t possibly move a bit nor expects to have to, lol.

    1. Iv’e always understood its 2 inches (which I suppose is now 5s) for a stop where mechanics are on a knee.

      1. that should be 5cm

    2. Yeah blaming the driver just doesn’t make sense: worst thing that should happen is the pitstop taking half a second more because the mechanics have to adjust their positioning.
      Priority number one should be to revise the design of the wheel gun and wheel nut. If no improvement can be made on the design, it’s a team effort between the driver and the mechanics to minimise risks. The mechanics on the other wheels managed the Monaco pitstop just fine so it isn’t all Valterri’s fault…

  10. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    3rd June 2021, 13:56

    Blaming Bottas was just weird. But then most things Wolff says are weird.

  11. Mercedes is slowly unraveling, they are still fastest, but cracks are beginning to show.

    All of a suden pitstop are more forced, strategy does not work every time, #2 driver is not on the podium by default, etc.

    1. Even the number 1 driver was not on the podium but fighting with te likes of gasly, stroll and Vettel.

  12. And I’m sticking to my story that the gun was spinning before it engaged and it ate the drive fins/ears/lugs.

    1. Coventry Climax
      3rd June 2021, 14:50

      Mechanically, that is indeed what makes the most sense.
      Not sure why you have to stress your point (again) though, as noone is actually saying otherwise?
      Not having the gun lined up exactly will likely contribute, but whether that’s the fault of the driver or the mechanic, or whether it’s a faulty quality wheelnut, or a design error with the gun itself, being able to spin before being engaged fully and/or not straight, that is what is being discussed here. Chances are it’s a combination of all of the above.

      1. I suspect the gun can indeed come in from a small angle, engage properly and then activate. I don’t believe that every team (especially MB) has to align their gun perfectly in order for it to land properly and fire.

  13. On a somewhat related topic, Pit Stop Crew Working on the Car.
    It was interesting to watch the Indy 500 and especially the pit stops.
    That includes, 4 tires swapped, fuel added, windscreen tear-off removed, wing adjustments and what-ever, under 10 seconds and go.
    The limit there is a max of 6 crew over the wall working on the car. F1 is more like 22 and no refueling.
    Time for a change.?

    1. Coventry Climax
      3rd June 2021, 14:54

      Why? To achieve what? Similarity among race classes can’t be the objective now, can it?
      Oh, just to have the change, any change, ofcourse. Yes, that seems to be the F1 idea these days.

      1. And what does having 20 guys crammed around a car offer? A slightly faster stop?
        Wow, that’s really amazing – I’m sure millions will tune in to watch that. /s

        It’s far more interesting to actually be able to process and appreciate what’s going on without having to replay it in slowmo.
        It’s just another unnecessary show of excess, and it’s had it’s time IMO. It’s time for F1 to realise why no other series bothers doing it that way.

        1. And what does having 20 guys crammed around a car offer? A slightly faster stop

          Honestly, this is probably a bigger factor than you realise. When I go to see races at my parents’, my mum in particular has little or no interest in the racing. But every time she sees them change tyres in 2 seconds flat she laughs and says that’s amazing. Casual fans find these small things incredible sometimes.

          But on top of that, minimising time in the pits is a benefit to strategic variety. If every pit stop cost another 8 seconds or so of stationary time then that would push the teams into minimising the number of pitstops even more than they already do. That means more one stop races, less strategy differences and less on track action.

          1. @keithedin I forgot where I was commenting. A handful of people on an F1 fansite are of course going to defend it.
            I think you illustrate my point well – your mum watches the pitstops but doesn’t care about the racing or F1 generally. I gather she doesn’t run out and buy merch or sponsor’s products based on a sub-2-second pitstop, and she probably isn’t paying for PayTV just for that feature either – so there’s really no tangible gain in having a comically short pitstop.

            I’d agree with you regarding strategy, except that it doesn’t in F1.
            They aren’t taking extra stops now and haven’t done for a long time, in small part due to stop time, but mostly because of other factors. Pit lane traversal time is the main reason, followed by tyre selection, circuit characteristics, track position, aero effects, tyre knowledge, data and telemetry, etc. All now point to fewer stops anyway, regardless of whether a stop is 2 seconds or 10 seconds.
            I honestly don’t think many (if any) would choose a different strategy with all other things being equal.
            F2 and Super Formula (for comparison) are doing 6-7 second stops with 6 people, and that is far more entertaining and valuable to me. I can see it, appreciate it and understand what/when and how it goes wrong in real-time.
            There’s also the safety aspect, of course, in taking dozens of people out of the lane.

          2. Coventry Climax
            4th June 2021, 1:34

            @keithedin: “I forgot where I was commenting.”

            Yes, it’s all about the self proclaimed grandmaster against the rest of the, entirely dumb, world population.

            Sorry to hear F1 pitstops are too fast for your mind to digest live. Be thankful for all the slomo’s offered, which I personally find, to be honest, very boring.
            It’s time for you to maybe try to bother to understand and realise why F1 does things the way they do.

          3. @S My point regarding my mum isn’t that she is going to go out, buy merchandise etc. It’s more that a casual viewer can find things like a fast pitstop interesting and exciting, and for some people that is enough to capture their imagination and turn them into a more regular fan, who then maybe would contribute to the sport financially – if that is the only metric that matters.

            On strategy – every race the teams run calculations on the fastest way to the end of the race, then take their track position and race situation into consideration before making their final decision. That 8 seconds difference (or whatever the exact figure is) is going to be significant in a lot of cases, and push some of the (increasingly rare) 2 stop races into 1 stoppers.

            Overall I don’t see much benefit to reducing the number of crew attending on the pitstop. It reduces some of the spectacle along with the other things I’ve mentioned which I think currently outweighs the benefits. If they decide to change this in future either for cost saving or safety reasons then I will accept it, but I think F1 has other things it should focus on than making a change that to a lot of fans would be detrimental rather than beneficial to the sport.

  14. Bottas may be surprised by Toto’s words, but few other people are.

  15. “There was a detailed analysis, of course, what happened, why it happened, how can we prevent that ever happening again in the future. So it’s really all about learning the issue and correcting it. So I think the team fully understands it now and we’ve made corrections for that ”

    If what Wolfe said was true then they didn’t tell Bottas, or at least they didn’t tell him everything.

    So either Wolfe said something incorrect or the problem has not been addressed.

    Looks to me like they concluded there were mistakes by everyone and tried to be gentle with them. That doesn’t seem like brave leadership to me.

  16. That’s the famous Mercedes value of loyalty that Wolff is always going on about. We’ve seen it many times. Not least in Bottas’ one-year contracts.

    Such a hypocrite.

    1. Agree, that’s a fitting word for him, another is liar (talking down mercedes every chance he gets).

      1. In the sense of talking up the opponents.

  17. Jerry Thompson
    3rd June 2021, 15:52

    It’s all quite simple. Bottas has become expendable. The wheel mechanic needs stroking because the season is just starting and the best way to do that is blame Bottas. Russell is in the wings waiting and if the team fails to win either championship, they need someone to blame because we all know that can’t be the great Toto.

  18. I love all the memes about this too but I don’t believe Toto can be interpreted as saying that bottas’ position in the box is the proximate cause of the wheel nut getting stripped and everyone else did what they were supposed to do. We can all agree that given the nature of the equipment a small misalignment can be a problem so it would be fair to point out that factor.

    It may also be good to think about how hard it is to hit that mark. It’s like driving down a local road and then slamming on the brakes to stop within about a 10 cm window. Then imagine you can see practically nothing since your are virtually on your back in a car the size of a f-150.

    1. Coventry Climax
      4th June 2021, 1:20

      @dmw: “We can all agree that given the nature of the equipment a small misalignment can be a problem … ”

      No we can not. Certainly I can’t. If what you say were the case, we would have seen many, many more similar cases of milled wheelnuts, and there’s not been a single prior occurrance.

      Bottas, to my opinion, was indeed pretty much spot on. And even if he was slightly out of the designated spot, that does not explain what happened, as there’s drivers stopping at not the exact spot all the time, and their wheel nuts are not being milled smooth.

  19. I was quite surprised by TW’s comments too, but presumed he was partially deflecting blame from one individual mechanic by ‘sharing’ responsibility for the mess up. I think VB’s response sums it up ‘[we] just left it there.’

    1. Its because its clear that’s BOT is out the team at the end of the season and he’s mentally checked out of the team, similar toxic team-driver relationship HAM had with McLaren late 2012

      1. @ccpbioweapon I agree it’s possible TW may have decided prioritizing team dynamics and morale was more important than worrying about VB’s reaction, and maybe VB saw that too (hence his fairly casual reply). It’s all speculation though at this stage.

  20. Personally for me it took a couple of days …. But I got over it, I’ve found my ways to get through it and I’m keen to race again.

    As a bus driver, there are things that are my responsibility and there are things that are the responsibility of others, e.g. mechanics. If I make a mistake then the consequences of it are my fault, and if the mechanics make a mistake then the consequences of it are their fault. In Valtteri’s case this was totally the mechanics’ fault. Note the use of “mechanics’ “, because this wasn’t just the fault of that person using the wheel gun, someone should have stopped him when the wheel nut didn’t come off maybe at the first attempt, but definitely at the second attempt. No one seemed to be able to make a decision until long after Valtteri’s race was completely ruined.
    I think Valtteri would have felt extremely frustrated about this because it was his chance to show he adds value to the team. Mercedes would have been still leading the Constructors’ Championship if the pitstop had gone correctly. When I look at that picture above, and allowing for parallax error, it looks to me as though Valtteri had stopped correctly. I don’t know how seriously to take Toto’s comment, but would he have said the same thing if this had happened to Lewis? I doubt it. In fact Mercedes as a team would have been better off if it had happened to Lewis and not Valtteri because they’d still be ahead of Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship (I’m assuming Valtteri would have finished with Second Place).

    1. Indeed, I think 3rd place btw, sainz looked faster and probably would’ve overcut him at some point, still a better constructor’s result.

  21. I do get the feeling that, for whatever reason, Bottas is becoming a semidetached member of the team.

    1. Same here.

      I also find it quite surprising that according to him they didn’t talk it over with Toto.

  22. This is indeed very weird from Wolff: it’s a given here that Bottas is out from Mercedes at the end of the season, but why demoralize him like this? It’s clear to all this wasn’t his mistake, he stopped pretty “spot on”, and there haven’t been any other occurrences of this type of mechanical failure in all my years watching the sport (I could, of course, be wrong, but we can agree this is not a common occurrence, ergo drivers not stopping spot on isn’t an issue at all). The mechanic started the gun earlier and or material fatigue, and that’s it.

    If he’d finished the race, Mercedes would most likely still be leading the WCC, so again, why demoralize Bottas like this?
    “Punishment” for Barcelona?
    Surely it’s far easier to replace a wheel-gun guy than a top driver?

    As a team and driver’s manager, utterly non-sensical.

    1. @esteban It’s the Lauda legacy. He played favorites and was unashamed about it and that influenced Wolff, although both are from Austria which is quite a hierarchical society. The one-year contracts, the put-down comments for Bottas. That’s why he can talk about the importance of loyalty with a straight face, because he means for the upper class, not a hoi palloi Finnish wingman.

    2. Agree in general until you said top driver! There’s no way bottas classifies as a top driver.

  23. Mercedes can’t have it both ways. With Bottas they have always had a clear number two driver to Hamilton, unlike Nico Rosberg who was capable on his day of beating Lewis.
    The problem with having two ‘equal’ drivers in terms of talent is that they take points of each other and cost the team points as in Spain in 2016 for example.
    My personal opinion is that Bottas has given up, he knows his time at Mercedes is coming to an end and is just going through the motions.

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