Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Zandvoort, 2021

How Bottas gave Mercedes a headache with “cheeky” fastest lap bid

2021 Dutch Grand Prix

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Valtteri Bottas gave Mercedes a headache in the final laps of the Dutch Grand Prix by setting the fastest lap of the race when he wasn’t supposed to.

In the final laps of the race, Max Verstappen was leading but Lewis Hamilton, in close pursuit, held the fastest lap and was therefore on course for the bonus point.

Verstappen’s quickest lap time was too close to Hamilton’s for Mercedes to feel comfortable. The Red Bull driver had set a time just one-tenth of a second slower than Hamilton. Mercedes couldn’t afford to take the risk that he might pull out a faster one on the final lap, leaving them no time to respond.

The sensible move for Mercedes, therefore, was to bring Hamilton in for a fresh set of rubber and set the fastest lap on the final tour, offering no opportunity for Verstappen to do the same.

Around the same time, Bottas in the other Mercedes was running third and increasingly struggling with his tyres. His lap times rose from the 1’14s into the 1’15s from lap 62.

Hamilton’s lead over Bottas was therefore growing. It reached 25 seconds, which was enough for him to get in and out of the pits ahead of his team mate. Mercedes, however, would have to leave Hamilton’s pit stop until the last possible moment, ensuring there was no time for Verstappen to come in after him and take the point.

Bottas therefore was brought in first. He was also told not to push for the fastest lap time. “We are not going for fastest,” said his race engineer Tony Ross.

Unable to resist himself, Bottas fired off the quickest time through the first two sectors. Mercedes jumped on it, the senior figure of chief strategist James Vowles coming on the radio telling him to “abort the fastest lap attempt”.

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Bottas did back off – his final sector time was a 23.0, around seven-tenths of a second off his best. But he was so quick in the first two sectors that he did take the fastest lap.

Hamilton duly came in as planned and claimed the fastest lap himself, by the very comfortable margin of 1.4 seconds. Nonetheless, had he encountered traffic at the end of the race he might not have got it done.

Afterwards Bottas said he was just “playing around” and Hamilton’s bonus point was never in serious jeopardy.

“To be honest, there was quite a big gap ahead, a big gap behind, so for safety reasons it was a good thing to stop,” he said. “I think I could have made it to the end much faster than by stopping. But in the end the position was the same so it’s a safer option to stop at the end.

“I thought initially we would stop for the fastest lap, but then also Lewis had a gap so then Lewis stopped. So I was pushing on the first lap, sector one, two like flat-out, and then they started asking me to slow down at the end of the lap.

“I was just playing around really because obviously Lewis needs that one extra point more than me. He’s fighting for the world championship in drivers and as a team we’re trying to get the maximum points. So that’s how it is.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff described Bottas’s two-thirds-flying lap as “a bit cheeky but understandable.” It came at the end of a race in which he’d played a strong team role for Hamilton by delaying Verstappen after taking the lead.

“Valtteri is always on the receiving end because this championship is so tight,” said Wolff. “He lifted off massively in the last sector. It was clear that Lewis would do the quickest lap and Valtteri knew about it.”

As Bottas returned to the pits, his race engineer made it clear he hadn’t been pulled in the pits solely for Hamilton’s benefit. “Lewis got the fastest lap, it was 11.1,” said Ross. “He had a full pit stop window before we stopped.”

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Bottas team radio from his final pit stop

Ross: Okay Valtteri so box, box, box.
Ross: So brake balance for the line, you’ve got plenty of time in hand.
Ross: Think positioning in the box, clutch position shallow.
Ross: So you’re on the soft, we’re going plus one. We are not going for fastest.
Bottas: Why not?
Ross: So Ricciardo sector one is one lap down.
Ross: So Lewis will have a free stop at the end.
Bottas: Why did we stop then?
Ross: Precautionary. Tyre vibrations.
Ross: Four laps remaining.
Ross: Got blue flags.
Ross: Okay Valtteri, strat seven.
Vowles: Valtteri it’s James. Please abort the fastest lap attempt before the end of the lap.
Bottas: Just playing around.
Vowles: I know. It’s a strong lap. Thanks.
Ross: Thank you.
Ross: So Lewis is in for fastest lap.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2021 Dutch Grand Prix

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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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29 comments on “How Bottas gave Mercedes a headache with “cheeky” fastest lap bid”

  1. someone or something
    5th September 2021, 18:23

    Cringeworthy.

    1. They planned bottas stop to create a safe opportunity for Lewis to stop for the fl and avoiding bottas passing him.
      Ugly to say the least.

      1. so what, excellent move from mercedes.

  2. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
    5th September 2021, 19:14

    So now we now for sure that it was Russell who got the Merc seat. they can stop stalling and announce it now. we all know it already

    1. When Bottas gets announced at Alfa Romeo next week, Mercedes can then announce Russel @justarandomdutchguy

  3. “Bottas therefore was brought in first. He was also told not to push for the fastest lap time. “We are not going for fastest,” said his race engineer Tony Ross.”

    Tony Ross hasn’t been his engineer since 2019

  4. One of the dumbest things ever. Brought the guy in for who knows why.
    They should look for new strategists asap.

    1. They bought him in to give Lewis a free run at fastest lap in case Red Bull sacrificed Perez again

  5. Hm, not too sure it was really “safety” reasons. I think they just pitted him (and kept him in the pitbox for quite some time) to make sure that when they pitted Hamilton, Valtteri would not have any chance of getting ahead and in the way – they couldn’t risk any delay if they needed Hamilton to set that fastest lap in the final round.

  6. All this goes to show the silliness of the FLAP point. If anything, I’d prefer a point for pole (or for the fastest quali lap which is not always the same). Still hoping someone gets a badly botched last-minute pitstop and loses a wad of positions and points, maybe a WDC (and WCC). Or maybe better yet, the leading driver has a serious mech problem in the last lap and arrives at the flag limping, to still win the race because their rivals have lost some 30 seconds (and an easy win) in the late pitstops.

    1. Or maybe better yet, the leading driver has a serious mech problem in the last lap and arrives at the flag limping, to still win the race because their rivals have lost some 30 seconds (and an easy win) in the late pitstops.

      That happened last year at Silverstone – I hope you enjoyed it very much.

      1. Did not happen, Max won with Charles Leclerc and Dan Ric in the podium. And the circunstances were very different. There were several massive tyre failures late in the race. Max’s pitstop got him the FLAP but it was done mostly to prevent delamination. Without the pitstop he might not have completed the race. See Baku this year.

        1. No, you misunderstood, I’m sure emma means the OTHER silverstone race, verstappen won the 70 years anniversary gp, there was another silverstone race before that and hamilton had a puncture on the last lap and verstappen couldn’t pass him due to a safety pit stop because of the tyre failures you mentioned.

          Furthermore I don’t see how can verstappen have won any race lately with leclerc 2nd and ricciardo 3rd, if you’re talking about the anniversary gp, hamilton was 2nd and bottas 3rd.

          1. someone or something
            5th September 2021, 22:27

            The thing is, Verstappen didn’t pit for FLAP (final lap and all), but merely for safety reasons. So, not quite what melanos meant.

    2. Oh, and if verstappen had a mechanical problem that still allowed him to make it till the end at slow speed or a puncture, it could’ve happened to win the race because of the fastest lap, was thinking about this as well while watching.

      1. Doesn’t matter who it benefits or loses, it is a silliness and it is seriously compromising the endraces

  7. Humiliating

    1. The title is also humiliating.pure click-bait

    2. I am sure there is a penalty for humiliating the sport.

  8. Too little too late.
    I was a huge fan of VB, but I lost everything in this respect for him in the last few years.
    He is treated even worse than Rubens was in his Ferrari years, yet he puts up with it and waits if somebody will pity him or sg.
    Even In the clear 2 horse championships, and in the early parts of the seasons when Lewis was not a clear leader in the standings he was cuckolded back to number two by the team

  9. Bottas sucks. Early in the race he was 10 seconds behind. Mercedes had to tell him to pick up the pace. Then he demonstrates he can do a fast lap when he wants to. This is why he won’t be a Mercedes next year

    1. My hamster would be collecting more podiums than VB in that Merc

      1. You guys both should ask Perez if he is better than bottas. Bottas is still only 0.1-0.2 slower than Hamilton, he is doing a decent job. Racecraft is not everyones strength. Or better, ask Tsunoda, who is considered by many as “talent” and see where he is considering his position compared to Gasly.

  10. Never understand why people say they lost respect for Bottas because he gives extra points to the team mate who has a chance of winning the WDC. Whist over on the other team we have another driver who is instructed to throw away his own and teams points just to stop the opposition gaining one FLAP point, and the very same people have no issue with that. or seek to justify it.

    1. If Perez does that and says he supports max to get his WDC no one says anything. But when Bottas does that anti merc group will just get **hurt.

  11. Whatever the PR spin, it was poor and unnecessary strategy from Merc and shows their desperation.

  12. Bottas didnt even try to keep max behind. Just no killer instinct when it comes to defending against max.

    1. He made a mistake and his tyres were done. But yes, he used to defend against Hamilton better than Max.

  13. I think I would have more respect for Bottas if he’d gone flat-out in the 3rd sector and nailed the fastest lap.

    As it is, he’s always Lewis’s doormat.

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