Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton had slight trouble in adjusting to slippery conditions at the start of F1 Portuguese GP as Toto Wolff explains the call for hard tyres.
It was unusual circumstances at the start of F1 Portuguese GP at Algarve as slight drizzle caught out several drivers in the opening few laps, especially the runners on the medium tyres, as it took time to warm up and get going for the drivers to push.
Both the Mercedes drivers Bottas and Hamilton were on the medium compound and were overtaken by McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who led the F1 Portuguese GP for few laps. In fact, Bottas overtook Hamilton as well, who was briefly cleared by Lando Norris too.
However, once it settled down, Bottas was able to take control at the front but Hamilton managed to chase him down and re-take track position and the lead to dominate and win the F1 Portuguese GP. It was tricky at the start, certainly, as both explained their fight.
“The opening lap was pretty good,” said Bottas. “There was a bit of drizzle and some cars behind with the soft tyre had the upper hand but I was pretty pleased I could get the lead. Definitely the right-hand side was rather slippery but I’m pretty sure it looked a bit weird for the spectators and for the viewers, looking at the first lap overall.
“But there was actually quite a bit of rain in the first laps, so that’s why the warm up was really poor, especially us being on the medium tyre, the warm-up was quite a bit weaker than the guys with the soft tyre, so I think I managed to make the most out of it with the Medium tyres in the first few laps but yes, it was tricky,” summed up Bottas.
At the same time, Hamilton said seeing the conditions he backed off and took it cautiously. He wanted to see-through the opening few laps and then charge through. “They said it was going to rain straight after the race,” he said. “We got some spitting just at the start.
“I got a good start but then going into Turn 7 and I got a huge oversteer moment and you didn’t know what was next. I really backed off massively. Arguably, I should have probably tried to defend from Valtteri but I was like “I’ll come back later on” and fortunately that’s what I was able to do. We knew it was going to be tough on the mediums.
“The engineers, they’re very – kind of – chilled about it. Yeah, it will be tough but you’ll be alright. It was very tricky and obviously it start to spit so when you’re often the first car into the corners at the start of a lap when it is spitting, you’re the first one to hit those raindrops, you’re the first one to hit those patches of circuit.
“It’s different when you’re in second, because you can react, often, to the car ahead but I struggled. I got to turn five which was not so bad but then had the moment as I said and realised I still had low grip. I was overly cautious, I would say, didn’t even defend and he seemed to have more grip than me at that moment.
“Of course, I didn’t understand why, but I was sure that at some stage I would get there and I knew that it’s a long, long race here, so I just kept my cool and just focused on trying to keep the car, the thing on the track, not make mistakes, and keep myself in the race.
“Even on the hard, it was not so easy to get temperatures but it wasn’t as bad as it was at the start of the race,” summed up Hamilton, who managed to finish 25.592s ahead of Bottas. The Finn tried to gamble by stretching his first stint but vibrations did not allow him to do that, where he wanted to switch to soft rather than hard tyres.
“I did ask for the soft tyre because I thought it would be, for me, the best thing to do,” said Bottas. “Something different, as the gap was already pretty big by that point – but then the medium tyre started to work. We started to have a bit of vibration, which means the tyres are going to be really finished and there’s always a risk of tyre failure, so the safest thing at the end was to go for the hard, just to obviously get the points.
“I didn’t really have any big lock-ups so I think it was just that it’s quite common that when a tyre starts to be at the end of its life, it starts vibration so I think it was really just the tyre wear and that forced us to stop at that point. That’s how it went but fundamentally the main issue for me was lack of pace, which I didn’t quite understand. I’m sure everyone could see. It was a tough, long race without Safety Cars or anything,” summed up Bottas.
This was the second time that Mercedes did not agree with the idea of Bottas, although, in this case, it was pretty clear that soft wouldn’t have worked as others who stopped, they struggled to go any quicker as they either stayed in same place or even lost positions. Also, the Finn had troubles on the medium tyres which Hamilton did not.
“We have done it on occasions, but it’s always a tricky situation,” said Wolff to media including Motorsport Network, Racefans.net, AMuS, BBC and more. “If you ask the lead driver to put the hards on because you believe this is the right choice, and then the second driver starts to convince you about the other thing, it’s very difficult to explain that you’ve basically reversed the cars.
“We don’t want to interfere too much, and there will be situations where we ware going to allow these calls. We were pretty convinced that the hard was the better tyre. All data that we’ve seen from cars out there lended towards the hard outperforming the medium and the soft. When you look at Checo and Esteban at the end, the soft didn’t function at all. It was actually the weakest tyre at the end of the race. We were pretty robust in our decision, because we expected it to be the better tyre,” summed up Wolff.
Here’s video of Carlos Sainz passing Lewis Hamilton: https://www.formula1.com/en/video/2020/10/2020_Portuguese_Grand_Prix__Sainz_overtakes_Hamilton_in_stunning_race_start.html
Here’s video of Carlos Sainz passing Valtteri Bottas: https://www.formula1.com/en/video/2020/10/2020_Portuguese_Grand_Prix__Sainz_passes_Bottas_to_take_race_lead_at_Portim_o.html
Here’s Carlos Sainz on his start
Here’s Lewis Hamilton seeking medical advice for cramps