Mercedes gambled the chance for fastest lap for Valtteri Bottas in F1 french GP, thinking about a possible penalty to Sergio Perez, as Toto Wolff welcomed his radio rant.
After the radio rant from Bottas towards the end of the F1 French GP, where he was cleared by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for second and then by Perez for third, Mercedes had a chance to pit the Finn to take an extra point for the fastest lap, but they didn’t do so.
It was a gamble as per Mercedes F1 chief Wolff, who said, they had to choose between that extra point or a possible podium. They went for the latter, even disregarding the chance that the fastest lap point went to Verstappen, who extended his lead over Lewis Hamilton.
“We thought if Perez gets a five seconds penalty for overtaking outside of the track limits, so it was balancing between staying within that time or fastest lap. We gambled, we lost,” Wolff said to TV media, as he also clarified why Bottas stopped earlier than usual.
The Austrian stated that there was huge vibrations for Bottas after a flat spot and it resulted in a slightly early stop to not let the suspension fail. “No, we had no choice because Valtteri’s tyres started to have vibrations, which came through suspension and we were really worried, because he had flat-spotted the tyres as well,” said Wolff.
“We knew that we would trigger the stops early but no choice.” On the side of Bottas, the Finn concurred to Wolff for both the decision to not go for fastest lap and also with regards to his early stop. The move between him and Perez was not fully aired on TV.
The stewards note, though, explained why Perez was let go of a penalty after his off at Turn 10. “The Stewards reviewed video evidence, positioning and timing data,” said the report. “The Stewards determined that Perez had fully completed the pass on Bottas by the time he left the track at Turn 10.
“This made the fact that he left the track subsequently as a standard “track limits” question. The Stewards determined that Perez lost sufficient ground in the following turn that he could not be deemed to have “gained a lasting advantage.” The Stewards take no further action.”
Even if Perez was penalised, the Mexican would have edged out Bottas by 0.807s, with the Finn not managing to maintain enough gap. The whole of losing to Red Bull sequence started off with the Finn’s radio message as mentioned above.
Earlier in the race, Bottas discussed about a two-stop strategy, but Mercedes kept him on one-stop. This enraged the Finn later on when he became a ‘sitting duck’. He came on the radio to state: “Why the f**k does nobody listen to me when I say it’s going to be a two-stopper? F**king hell.”
Post-race, Bottas stood by his comments. “I think the winning strategy was two stops,” he said. “It’s easy to say afterwards but that’s how it is. As a team, we were too focused on completing the one-stop thinking it’s the best but it wasn’t. If I did a two-stop, I would have been on the podium and fighting for the win, that’s for sure.
“I had no front tyres left for the last 15 laps so I just had to try to get the car home. It was not fun, the last stint. You feel like a sitting duck. Of course, I tried everything I could, tried to finish on the podium but the tyres were completely gone, so no chance. I think we thought the tyres would last a lot better than they did, I think that was the biggest thing.
“We thought the hard tyre could do nearly the whole race but that was not the case. On the radio, I was making very clear what I was thinking. I was suggesting a two-stop earlier in the race but the team went one-stop and here we are,” summed up Bottas.
From Mercedes side, Wolff welcomed the call from Bottas. “I loved it, that he speaks his mind now and that was not internalised,” he said to written media. “We still believe that the one-stop was the better strategy, that when fighting so strong after the stop, we just stretched the tyres too much to make it all the way to the end.”
Here’s video of whole Valtteri Bottas radio for Mercedes: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-french-grand-prix-angry-bottas-criticises-mercedes-pit-stop-strategy.1703099916829518179.html
Here’s when Sergio Perez passed Valtteri Bottas: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-french-grand-prix-perez-snatches-podium-place-from-bottas.1703100183167749687.html
Here’s how F1 French GP panned out