Mercedes has explained the idea behind their strategy with both their F1 drivers in Hungarian GP as they also talk about the start for Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.
The Hungarian GP has Mercedes duo in discussion where Bottas’ start was much talked upon. The Finn stated that something flashed on his dash, which is why he reacted as the FIA explained that the movement was under the tolerance level set.
Mercedes Trackside Engineer Andrew Shovlin revealed what happened with Bottas at the start in the post-race debrief:
“Valtteri’s issue was actually that he reacted to one of the lights on his dash that flickered. And that’s because he practices starts using his steering wheel over the weekend and to simulate the lights going out for the start grid, the lights on the dash on the steering wheel go out. And that was why he reacted to it, it distracted him.
“Now, luckily, he was able to pull the clutch and avoid a jump start. Now, there’s an automatic system that will detect where the car is and when it has left the grid box. And the car can sit within a reasonably wide position on that grid box without detecting it, and because Valtteri hadn’t moved far he was still within range.
“So, the system didn’t think it was a jump start because he was still within his box when the lights actually went out. What it did do, though, was cost him an awful lot of places because resetting and getting ready to go meant that everyone else was off and around him by the time he was getting up to speed.”
Shovlin along with Mercedes chief Toto Wolff and Bottas also talked about the decision to have a third stop, where the idea was to quickly catch Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and pass him but it didn’t happen, something which they will be reviewing.
“I need to see more data from the race and the big picture of the race. I’m sure the team is going to analyse in theory what was the best thing to do. At that time it felt like a good thing to do because the tyre difference between me and Max was quite minimal. If I would not stop and everyone knows how difficult it is to overtake on this track so, I was quite happy at that point, to stop, because I knew there was a bigger tyre difference at the end and it nearly worked.
“Obviously there were quite a few backmarkers I had to go through, lost a bit of time during that and in the end it was a matter of one extra lap or two laps whatever so pretty close. Yeah, you can see the big picture but yeah, it was obvious in the end I was quite a bit quicker, obviously thanks also to fresher tyres but that was not quite enough but everything will be analysed, for sure.”
“It would have been wrong to keep him out, because Valtteri tyre started to grain on the left from quite heavily because he was pushing so hard. We think he would have run out of tyre anyway, and putting him onto a new hard, like we did last year with Lewis, a similar way like last year with Lewis, was actually the only chance of trying to snatch P2. At the end it wasn’t sufficient, there was quite a lot of traffic in-between that we didn’t clear fast enough, and I think it was a recovery drive.”
“The decision to do that extra stop with Valtteri at the end and go onto the Hard tyre was really just because we thought that would give us the best chance of overtaking. He’d got up behind Max Verstappen but he wasn’t really able to get through and the tyres were too similar in age to actually get that tyre delta that allows you to do it. The other thing you could see from Max was actually when Valtteri was behind him, he was managing his pace, so he was able to drive off the pace, looking after the tyres and still comfortably keep Valtteri behind him.
“When Valtteri came in, Max picked up his pace, so he had to push because Valtteri had a bit of time to make up obviously with the pit stop but he was on a faster tyre. The reason it was the Hard is that we only had two Mediums, we’d used them both by that point and the Soft tyre was not very good, it would degrade quite rapidly so you would get a couple of good laps out of it but then it would start to drop off.
“The Hard tyre was actually very robust, and it could deal with that succession of fast laps that Valtteri was having to put on it. Unfortunately for us, the race was a bit too short, I think if Valtteri had had a couple of laps at the back of Verstappen, he could have probably made a move stick. But as it happened, he only just caught him in the very closing stages of the race and unfortunately this time it didn’t work out for us.”
Wolff also explained what went behind the call of getting Hamilton to pit which Shovlin spoke about too. He also added on the scare the Brit had on the formation lap when he radioed about some issues with his power unit.
“Ultimately we have to weigh-up the risks and I mean I didn’t push so much that I was going to make a mistake and go off. So it was a fully controlled lap. Look, I’ve lost World Championships in the past by one point, so I know how crucial it is to maximise on every moment and we’re in a year when you don’t know what reliability is going to be like; you don’t know how long the season’s going to be.
“So, yes, Valtteri had a great, particularly, first race. At the time he had the fastest lap, I had the gap, and felt that it was necessary to get that point, particularly as I felt that I’d earned the gap that I had. But things like the extra pit stop, coming in, all these different things do add to the risk factors. But, look, we’re a professional team and so long as we continue to do, keep our heads on, stay focused, I believe it was the right decision to make.”
“Our communication was not great around that. In the morning we agreed that we wouldn’t pit for a quickest lap, that it was bearing too much risk. But the call to pit around Lap 60 to protect against the safety car certainly would have been the right call, but then the gap was never quite comfortable enough.
“It was a second or two, then 2.5, then we hit backmarker traffic. Then obviously we communicated with Lewis, so at the end it was a bit of confusion, and three laps to the end he pitted to score the fastest lap. I think there’s a lot to learn from the intercom conversation that we had in the garage, and the communication to the driver, certainly not 1A, but at the end the result counts.”
Shovlin – tyre strategy:
“With Lewis, we were in an unusual position at the end of the race where you have actually got a pit stop gap to the entire field, you can come in and take a precautionary stop. And at one point we were talking about that, thinking we would put him onto the Hard tyre, that would give us coverage if there was a Safety Car for instance, he wouldn’t need to stop, and he’d be on fresh tyres leading the race.
“As it got nearer the end of the race, it would start to make more sense to put him onto the Soft tyre, that would have grip that would allow him to go for fastest lap but also it would survive a short stint and that was one of the reasons that we decided just to go for that tyre at the very end.”
On his start troubles:
“Lewis reported a problem on the formation lap where he said he thought the engine was going to stall. What it actually was, was a sensor issue that was only affecting the engine around the idle controls, so when he was sat there waiting to go off on the formation lap. Now, it wasn’t a problem, it wasn’t going to stall and there is a protection that will actually stop the engine from stalling anyway if you were in that situation.
“But we couldn’t tell him it was OK and that’s because of the rules that prevent you talking to the driver during that entire formation lap. So, we knew it was fine, but he had to worry a bit for the next few minutes until he got off the line.”
Here’s what FIA said on the Valtteri Bottas start
Here’s how the F1 Hungarian GP panned out
Here’s Toto Wolff on Ferrari engine, Racing Point
Here’s Toto Wolff on being tired of Mattia Binotto’s talks