Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2021

Mercedes didn’t tell Bottas not to beat Hamilton’s lap time

2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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After Lewis Hamilton overhauled Valtteri Bottas with his final run in qualifying, Mercedes got the best possible result available to them on the grid for the Turkish Grand Prix.

The W12s led the way in practice and a one-two looked on the cards from the outset. But with Hamilton doomed to take a 10-place grid penalty because of his engine change, the order in which the pair ended up took on more significance than usual.

If Bottas took pole ahead of Hamilton, the world championship leader would fall to 12th on the grid. If Hamilton was fastest, he’d start a place higher in 11th. Either way, Bottas would start from pole, so having Hamilton ahead was clearly in Mercedes’ best interests.

However Bottas led the pair after their first runs in Q3. That changed when Hamilton began his final run before his team mate and moved ahead. When Max Verstappen completed his final lap in Q3 and failed to dislodge the pair from the front row, the biggest threat to Mercedes was gone.

Did Mercedes therefore to tell Bottas to back out of his final flying effort, to ensure the best possible starting positions for both drivers? The opportunity was there: Bottas reached the finishing line 18 seconds after Verstappen.

But afterwards Bottas made it clear there had been no such instruction from his team. “I wasn’t asked to slow down and I was definitely going for it,” he confirmed.

Hamilton’s speed through the final sector of the lap, which includes two of the slowest corners, proved decisive.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2021
Bottas ran out of grip in the final sector
“I started to struggle a bit with the front end in the last sector,” Bottas explained. “I just had some understeer in turn 12 and 14, so I could feel I was losing a bit of time. Probably used the tyres a bit more, earlier in the lap. So I was fully going for it, for sure.”

Telling Bottas to back off could also have put him in jeopardy from the only driver running behind him who could potentially beat his time – apart from his team mate – Charles Leclerc. However the Ferrari driver ended up almost three-tenths of a second behind Bottas.

Verstappen fell short of beating Bottas by less than two-tenths of a second. He told his team on the radio his battery hadn’t delivered all the expected power at the end of his lap. Later, Verstappen confirmed this has been due to how he used the battery earlier in the lap, and not a technical problem on his car.

While Verstappen said the lost time wouldn’t have been enough for him to take pole position, it underlined how big a threat Red Bull were to Mercedes. The world championship therefore couldn’t take any chances when it came to their drivers’ lap times.

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Bottas radio from his final run

MusconiWe’ve got three cars about to start a lap in sector three. Lewis at the last corner.
MusconiLewis is finishing his lap, correction.
MusconiWe’ve got Leclerc now on the start/finish line starting a lap. Behind him, Tsunoda.
MusconiSo Alonso’s got a seven second gap ahead to Norris. Expect a tiny bit of bunching.
MusconiAnd Stroll behind on an out-lap. Leclerc has aborted. Only car on a lap is Tsunoda, 20.
MusconiPlenty of time in hand. Perez in the last corner is going. Verstappen now is going. And Norris five ahead will go soon.
MusconiStrat two.
MusconiTsunoda still 16 behind. Alonso two-and-a-half ahead. Four ahead. Four-and-a-half. Five seconds.
MusconiNo radio communication during Bottas’ final timed lap
So currently P2.
MusconiGot Lewis and Leclerc finishing but Lewis is already ahead.
MusconiSo confirm P2. Leis, yourself, super Max, Leclerc, Gasly, Alonso, Perez, Norris, Stroll and Tsunoda. Good job.
BottasWell done guuys, good job. So that’s pole tomorrow yeah?
MusconiAnd you’re coming into the pit lane.
MusconiSo Lewis’ fastest lap was the first one.
MusconiIt was mainly sector three, a tenth and a half.

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2021 Turkish 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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18 comments on “Mercedes didn’t tell Bottas not to beat Hamilton’s lap time”

  1. This must be the most stupid theory put forward by anyone.
    How do you slow down by exactly a tenth or two and not give Verstappen pole position when the track is getting faster and faster.

    1. ..yeah that’s slightly bizarre

    2. Sounds like something they’d talk about with garbage tier commentators on Sky LOL

      1. Yeah, it’s something that Ted and Crofite will. Have a field day with.

        Good God, I know it’s a whinge, but I really can’t stand Crofty. Brundle/Button or Brundle/Di Resta!

      2. Why is this such a big deal. Lewis has out-qualified Bottas several times but we want to create this narrative?

        1. Just somebody trying to make out they’re superior to some actual F1 drivers… :)

          Personally I think the range of ex drivers Sky have on is quite amazing, and the social skills of the presenting team too.

    3. He didn’t need to slow down by exactly a tenth to finish ahead of Verstappen. His earlier lap was already good enough for that (and Verstappen had no opportunity to set a faster lap) so Bottas would have just needed to abort his final lap.

  2. Lewis experimented with a fast S1 didn’t he, earlier in the session, and he lost in S3 that lap, so that was the tradeoff. Anyway that was pretty fair of Mercedes, as usual, and how they keep Bottas onside.

    1. @zann Weird comment right after Sochi when the team sacrificed his race to drop him down the field in order to hold up Verstappen, on the same track they previously ordered him to give up his win to Hamilton, causing him to be so furious he almost quit F1. The way he didn’t hold Verstapppen up at all, but rather delibaretely let him past, says that was too much even for Bottas, which is why the messages now are that we won’t order him to do anything. (of course they will, but not in advance or too blatantly)

      1. ‘Tactical’ can mean about engines too @balue, tho yes the way he let Max through did look like a bit of a finger didn’t it. But wingmen have rights too, even if it’s not all black and white, and Mercedes generally are pretty fair with him I think, considering he’s quite a big step below their No1. Managing their No2 driver is always tricky for teams, with how generally they’ve won everything up until F1 and then they’re in this subordinate position.

      2. when the team sacrificed his race to drop him down the field in order to hold up Verstappen

        You still believe this crap? Or you think it will turn true if you parrot it incessantly?

  3. The cynical view and I’m not saying it’s my view, would be answering the title with “they didn’t need to!”, as in they had agreed pre race weekend!

  4. Why would merc do that? They would have had to been right on top of it, the final run order would have allowed for such order that said they had no way to make sure max was going to stay where he was. In my view their priority was to have bottas ahead of max.

    1. Because Lewis would have been starting 12 instead of 11.
      One place ahead is still one place

  5. The most intriguing thing that I have gleaned from this exchange is that Ricardo Musconi refers to Max as “Super Max”.

    Hahahaha. That’s hilarious.

  6. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
    10th October 2021, 5:18


    Interesting, very very interesting.

  7. “Super Max” I chuckled. I bet a certain music track to be high up in that guys playlist.

  8. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    10th October 2021, 11:51

    For Lewis to stand a chance he needs the cars to spread out with around 2 to 3 seconds between them. He does not want a DRS train.

    Charles appears to have a massive speed advantage through the speed trap that Valtteri needs to pull clear of before DRS is enabled.

    Valtteri needs to get on with his race plain and simple.

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