Wolff glad Bottas ‘spoke his mind’ over strategy on radio

2021 French Grand Prix

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Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff says Valtteri Bottas was right to challenge the team’s strategy call on the radio during the French Grand Prix.

Bottas criticised the team’s tactics as he suffered tyre degradation towards the end of the race following an early first pit stop. He was heard telling the team they should have followed his advice to bring him in for another set of tyres earlier in the race.

Despite Bottas’ obvious displeasure, Wolff said he was pleased by his direct feedback. “I loved it that he that he speaks his mind now and doesn’t internalise,” he said.

“We still believe the one-stop was the better strategy. But when fighting so strong after the stop, we just stressed the tyres too much to make it all the way to the end.”

Bottas said after the race he had “no concerns” over the firm line he took with his team on the radio. “I was making very clear what I was thinking, and I was suggesting two stops earlier in the race,” he said.

“But the team decided it was going to be one stop. So we went with the one stop, and here we are.”

Bottas ran second at one stage, but fell to fourth by the end of the race as the two Red Bull drivers easily passed him. Sergio Perez took the final podium place off the Mercedes with four laps to go, having made his single pit stop much later than Bottas.

“By stopping that early, we should have done a two-stopper,” said Bottas. “It was too late to react in the end.”

“The ultimate issue was we thought the tyres were going to last a lot better than they did,” he added. “I think that was the biggest thing. We thought that the hard tyre could do nearly the whole race, but obviously it was not the case.”

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2021 French Grand Prix

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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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35 comments on “Wolff glad Bottas ‘spoke his mind’ over strategy on radio”

  1. I also liked Bottas’ radio outrage. I’ve never heard him this outraged before.

    1. He wanted to be a good boy back then, as he awaited another 1 year contract. I believe this time this is not the case and he’s aware or he suspects something different is coming.

      1. If something different is coming (out of mercedes by next year) the “will he win another race?” question starts! Probably only if verstappen and hamilton crash or both have issues.

        1. Or in russia, if it’s on calendar, not checked, but didn’t hear anything about it being cancelled.

    2. I agree @jerejj. We need our drivers to show their frustration. Emotions expressed add to the racing a lot.

  2. Wolff very happy for this. When he is going to show Valtteri the door, he will say that this was a mutual choice; I can hear Toto say: “We parted ways because He wasn’t happy with Mercedes, do you remember his outburst at paul ricard?”

  3. Shame he put up more of a fight keeping his teammate behind in Spain than he did keeping Max behind this weekend.

    1. He put more of a fight trying to keep Verstappen behind than Hamilton did.

      1. Indeed, I don’t understand this bottas hate, bottas defended for a couple of turns, hamilton did much less, he simply had a bigger gap.

        1. And take into account Bottas had the older tire compared with Lewis. His braking error was the result of tires way over the edge.
          He did everything possible and put up a better fight then Lewis did. (with the same age tires at that stage)

      2. Jurgen Klinsman
        22nd June 2021, 3:42

        I agree. Bottas raced valiantly given the conditions of his tires, while he had both Verstappen and Perez breathing down his neck.

        Reply moderated
    2. Incorrectly reported your comment. Apologies

      1. I would like this fixed! The report button is 2x the size of the reply button and just to its right. So reaching with the right thumb has led to this mistake for me also. They should be separated.

        1. @dmw there should be a confirmation pop-up.

        2. Jockey Ewing
          21st June 2021, 20:17

          Yes, a confirmation popup is very reasonable, and straightforward there, and if there is a popup, there could be some checkboxes or radio buttons for the reasoning of the report, what would help the processing of the reports (would give hints of severity, reasonability and about the credibility of the reporting user).

        3. We should be using Disqus instead of WordPress primitive system, alas…

  4. They also liked the one-stop strategy so much at the end that they decided to give that fastest lap extra point to VER by not pitting Bottas after PER passed him.

    1. They actually had a good reason for that, by expecting Perez to get a 5-second time penalty. Of course Bottas didnt manage to stay within 5s in the end anyway, but they took a calculated gamble there (which didn’t pay off).

      1. Even with the chance to get back the 3points for the team, I wouldve rather went for FL and take the point off Verstappen.

  5. True, Bottas complained vehemently. But I seem to remember the TV commentators remarking that Bottas had asked to emulate whatever Max and Lewis did after the first stop? It was around the same time Mercedes told Lewis that Max had said the hard tyres wouldn’t last the distance, Lewis agreed and told Mercedes to be smarter about pitting him the second time round. Then Max pitted first. OK, so Mercedes were actually worried about Perez being in the pit window and holding them up. But why then did Mercedes pass the responsibility to Hamilton, ‘So Max has pitted, tell us what you think?’ when they’d effectively decided to keep both drivers out by not anticipating the second pit stop? And ignored his and Bottas’s feedback about the tyres not going the distance? Whatever the case, keeping both drivers on the same marginal strategy seemed pointless.

  6. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    21st June 2021, 14:16

    Every time Bottas suggests a different strategy to try something different or suggests he needs to this, that or the other Mercedes completely ignore him so why Wolff’s so ‘happy’ he spoke his mind now confuses me. Was he not paying attention to the other times Bottas has spoken his mind before?

    1. While Valtteri considers that comment as being a good call, it seems to me the important calls he and Lewis made were related to tyre wear, not whether or not to use a two stop strategy, because it was tyre wear that ultimately cost Mercedes a One Two finish. Excessive tyre wear should dictate your strategy. It leaves you with two choices: either go for a Two Stop strategy or accept your cars will need to slow down towards the end of the race. Mercedes chose the latter strategy. A One Two finish was never going to happen when Red Bull were chasing them and their tyres were wearing out slower than what was happening on the Mercedes cars.
      The real problem for Mercedes is the wear on the hard tyres was worse than what they expected. I don’t know why that was, but maybe they didn’t test any during any of the Final Practice sessions. I think I saw a graphic showing each driver had two sets of hard tyres for this race, so maybe they could have at least sent out a driver on one set during one of the Final Practice sessions to see how much they degraded.

    2. @rocketpanda Because Mercedes know that Bottas is usually just asking for a different strategy to gamble that it can help him get in front of Hamilton. They don’t allow Hamilton to do that either. It serves no benefit for Mercedes either. So yes those request always get ignored. For both drivers

      Besides usually Bottas’ gambles/ideas are more likely to lose him a place.

      In this case Bottas also was simply wrong. The fastest strategy was a one stop like almost every driver did. Like Perez did to beat Bottas.

      It was Bottas’ own fault that he needed to stop already on lap 17. He flat spotted his tyres and Mercedes feared the suspension might get damaged from the vibrations. So then they have two poor options. Either stop Bottas again and put him on the task of overtaking Perez or let him run long on the hard tyres and hope he manages the tyres.

      They know for sure that Bottas is not going to overtake Perez. So it makes no sense for them to pick a strategy where Bottas ends up behind Perez and then needs to overtake. And therefore the only poor option Bottas left them with was to let him go longer.

  7. You only get to know your spouse (or husband) when you ask for a divorce.

    Bottas change of attitude is a very strong indication that the deal is done and dusted. Rumors are true, but we’ll have to wait until Silverstone to get confirmation.

    Good for him. He’ll have first pilot status at Williams, and the team seems to be headed in the right direction.

  8. Mercedes could have denied Red Bull a point for fastest lap by bringing Bottas in at the end – he had 30 odd seconds of space behind him. They didn’t. Why not?

    1. @rsp123 They thought that SP might be given a penalty for ‘passing on the outside’ which would have garnered them/VB more points by staying put, than the one from fastest lap had he pitted and gone for that. Turned out SP was cleared of passing on the outside as when he went wide he had actually already cleared VB and was well ahead when he went wide. They took a gamble that SP would be penalized but he was not. Had there not been that potential possibility for sure it would have been a no-brainer to pit VB for the fastest lap point.

      1. Thanks for that. But silly of Merc all the same. They have made some serious errors recently. Has there been a staff shakeup?

  9. Thats it then.

    Bottas probably knows he isnt getting an extension next year, which probably explains his general non compliance and brashness this season. You’d think that his performances would improve, although he has been very unlucky, its still not very good.

    Bottas’ problem is that he drives with the idea of beating Lewis, which in my opinion, doesn’t do him any favours. Lewis is in a different league, and there is no shame in Bottas admitting that. He should just focus on his own performance, and should be able to, pick up the pieces when Lewis has a bad weekend. Checo seems to have got with program at RB. I’m sure he is under no illusions that it Max’s team, and Max is superior driver. No shame in that, its actually a very smart thing to do. It will also foster a healthier environment in the team.

    Question now is, where will Bottas end up next season. The obvious choice is back at Williams. If Kimi doesn’t stick around, perhaps Alfa?

    1. It is too early to say that of Perez, I think. Yes, very recently he was without a seat but he has also been historically very ambitious driver (see esp. his first season alongside Button in McLaren). I would wait with these judgements for after the season or for next season. It all depends whether he can achieve more progress now. He (again) seems to be good with the tyres, but that is not crucial on all circuits, so he has to find some extra pace elsewhere. If he improves & Red Bull moves a bit away from its competitors he might turn out to be a “Rosberg” for Verstappen.

    2. Bottas has been well rewarded; and with his salary, bonus and Mercedes sponsors contracts, probably one of those in the highest pay group. He has had interest from other teams at least for the last two years, and in some cases to be their lead driver. If he won’t accept that he is not as good as Ham and outside influences have prevented him from challenging Ham then he should have got out before now.
      Notwithstanding that Bottas is usually pretty good around whatever we are calling the RB track this week, so he has a chance to lead the Mercs home over the next two races. Not that I see that making any difference. If their was any doubt about his future within Mercedes I think his fate was sealed when he decided to hold Ham up in Spain.

  10. @jay menon i agree. He was trying very hard it seems to pass lewis instead of holding back and biding his time. He does not seem to be a team player more and more. Mercedes will lose the construction title partly due to him.

  11. It’s like in life. Being nice never really gets you anything, and some will be used as door mats. Bottas realized too late.

  12. Bottas really should stop crying. He’s the one who flat spotted his tyres and therefore ruined his own strategy. The one stop strategy was faster. Even Perez was faster than Bottas and he did just one stop. You just need to make the stop at the right time and not way too early because you ruined your tyres.

    That error from Bottas put Mercedes on the back foot and even ruined Hamilton’s strategy for what otherwise would have been an easy drive to the win.

    Also if they had stopped Bottas a second time he would have had to overtake Perez. I know in his mind that is an option, but in reality Mercedes will know that Bottas is not going to overtake a competitive car. So it never was an option anyway.

    Time to replace him with Russell and see if Hamilton and Russell can get the team back to their winning ways.

    1. I don’t necessarily agree a one stop would have been better for Bottas. He’s harder on his tyre than Lewis or Sergio are. So they could have calculated a two stopper for him, especially when all the drivers started complaining about enhanced tyre degradation. But he is a fool to say it out loud now, when he had a day to insist on a two stop strategy for him. He can’t start shifting the blame around when he is the one responsible for driving the car. I can’t imagine Lewis or Max settling for a two stopper when they feel a one stop would be better. Bottas is trying to say somone didn’t do his job right, but that somebody is actually him.

  13. “He was heard telling the team they should have followed his advice to bring him in for another set of tyres earlier in the race.” After the fact is kind of useless.

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