Lewis needs to up his game & Bottas shafted by Mercedes ineptitude

Following their elation at finding the ‘Flying Finn’ mark VIII, fans of F1 in Finlandia may be slightly perturbed following the weekend’s events in the desert of Bahrain. Pretty much as the strains of the jolly –and ridiculously lengthy – Italian national anthem were fading, Toto Wolff was being badgered as to when he would nominate Lewis Hamilton as the Mercedes team’s number one driver.

The sub text of the Toto integrations and pronouncements from those such as former Williams technical director, was that Valterri Bottas had his chance, blew it and should now be relegated to number 2 status; presumably to also be forced to tug his pretty short forelock when his superior and better, Lewis Hamilton deigns to enter the garage.

What a load of bollocks!!!

The reality was – as the sometimes rabid Hamfosi have observed – Mercedes royally screwed one driver this weekend and his lack of performance was completely based upon a series of cock ups by F1’s world champion team. Further, Lewis Hamilton benefited greatly from the information the team gleaned. This data was in fact available to Mercedes from FP2, but they failed to understand the tea leaves – unlike their rivals the Scuderia.

Having overinflated the tyres of their pole sitter, Mercedes then appeared to be frozen in their own headlights as Valterri Bottas attempted to drive a 1000+ Bhp prototype racing machine on what must have felt like polished glass.

Conversely, Mercedes supporters may argue that the team made the best of this mistake by using Valterri to slow Vettel and then give Lewis an advantage.

But NO, this apparently didn’t dawn on the Brackley strategists as for lap after lap Bottas struggled to keep his car on the road and Lewis trundled along behind. Why did Mercedes not pit one of their drivers first? How is that that the Scuderia – at times the laughing stock of the elementary class of race strategists – got the jump on Merc and pitted Vettel first?

Had Lewis – or Valterri been offered this option, they would inevitably found themselves leading the race following the safety car deployment – as did Sebastian.

EVEN without the safety car being deployed, Vettel eventually successfully performed the undercut by stopping first– and regardless would have been leading the race following the first round of pit stops.

In fact having been turned over by Ferrari, the immediate response of Mercedes should have been to pit one of their drivers next lap – AND to go contra to Ferrari by fitting the soft tyre – not copy Vettel and fit the supersoft. Without teams of analysts, giga computers and banks of monitors, Max Verstappen understood this from behind the wheel of his soon to be doomed Red Bull Racing car.

But no, frozen by the missing page in the Mercedes manual of ‘how to do stuff’, they were eventually forced to act by the actions of Carlos Sainz and the resulting safety car.

To compound their previous ineptitude on the grid, Mercedes then discovered they had problems with their pit stop equipment, which meant Bottas stop was 4 seconds slower than Vettel’s.

THEN – another error. Despite being Sebastian Vettel’s closest rival, Bottas was given the same tyre as Ferrari driver. Clearly, anyone who watches a modicum of F1 will know Christian Horner’s favourite saying at present. “Do the same thing, you get the same result”. Long term Bottas would end up in the same pit window as Vettel.

Lewis was in fact afforded the contra strategy, though being behind his team mate would always mean he had to work a little harder to make it work.

Mercedes should also have known from their tyre data that given the track temperatures, the super soft tyre on the Mercedes car was a long way from the best option on their car which is heavy on tyres. So in a handful of laps, Hamilton on the soft tyre was passing Bottas as he struggled on the wrong rubber.

When Valterri was finally allowed to run on the better rubber, he had to stop so early that by the time his team mate then made his last stop, the performance differential between their soft tyres was enough to merit Lewis form benefitting from a team order.

All in all, Valterri Bottas is entitled to feel royally shafted by his team last weekend. Whatever, his wrongs were in Shanghai, the team paid him back with interest in Bahrain.

And yet seasoned commentator Martin Brundle implies today in his column, that somehow our new flying Finn was fighting with the big boys and not quite up to the task. “Valtteri Bottas found out what’s it’s like to get in the ring for 94 minutes with two multiple champions. They are brutally and relentlessly fast and he left Bahrain with a bloody nose,” Brundle observes.

Taking a reality check, Lewis Hamilton got out of jail this weekend. He was beaten to pole in just his third outing by his new team mate which for most of us was a huge surprise. Further, by utter misjudgement, he was given the strategy Mercedes would normally offer to their lead driver – and so it was inevitable he would finish ahead of Bottas.

How the headlines would be different had it been Hamilton who had been given the super soft tyre at pit stop one and Bottas the soft option. “Battered by Bottas: Is the world champion finished?”, may well have been popping up on the internet.

Lewis needs to raise his game somewhat, if he’s not going to find himself in another internal battle for supremacy at Mercedes and challenge Sebastian Vettel for the drivers’ 2017 world title

At least Toto Wolff resisted the repeated calls to write off Bottas this season – and for good reason. After all, in the post Schumacher era Ferrari were mocked for years having chosen to run with an outright number one driver, and the myriad of points sacrificed by the lack of motivation of their number 2.

If somehow in Russia or Barcelona Lewis Hamilton was to have a ‘nil point’ return, Mercedes will need their Finish gladiator to take the fight to Sebastian Vettel.

Kimi is clearly Ferrari’s number two – so check out the constructors table already.

17 responses to “Lewis needs to up his game & Bottas shafted by Mercedes ineptitude

  1. Watched the race on ITV, and was gagging as they lamented about how the race would have been so much different if Hamilton hadn’t received a penalty. Complete pandering to the British audience and ignoring the possibility that Vettel was simply managing the gap gifted to him.

  2. Yes, one important factor in the race was the penalty, and this was not caused by the Mercedes team, this was, once again, Hamilton’s own fault, he does make mistakes, you know? He’s only human, so not everything that ever goes wrong for Hamilton is the Mercedes team’s fault, but that can’t be said as he must be the greatest driver in history. They got what they deserved from the weekend, imo

  3. M-B have the fastest car in qualifying but not in a race anymore, and you’re seeing strategy mistakes because they still believe they do. The other strategy error M-B made was thinking Hamilton could do a one-stop and go 44 / 45 laps on the softs. The amusing thing about that was Kravitz said on-air Pirelli told M-B the max life of the softs was 35 -40 laps and he would have to stop again, yet Croft continued to say Hamilton didn’t have to stop again – that is until he did stop for the second time.

  4. The wheel gun delay caused Hamilton to try and maintain the 5 second gap Mercedes asked of him, by slowing down even more.
    Mercedes simply fumbled. The drivers can’t really be blamed.

    • What a crock! The gun didn’t fail until Hamilton was just pulling up behind Bottas. This was not a Mercedes fail, it was completely Hamilton’s. You have a minimum and maximum speed you need to maintain in the pit lane and Lewis failed.
      What race were you watching because your recollection must have been from another race?

  5. Wow, this is one of the most biased and one-sided articles I have read on TJ13 in *years*! Merc claims their generator failed on the grid and they couldn’t bleed the tires properly for Bottas, hardly something the team would deliberately do. This is the same team that took Lewis’ mechanics away in 2016 to give them to Rosberg in some kind of ‘parity’ move. Does Merc screw it up sometimes? YES. Did Ferrari screw up a bunch in the preceding years? YES. Did Merc almost win every damn race and pole? YES.

    This is a fantastic year already in competition between Red and Silver and this article cocks it all up. Ferrari was better at Bahrain. Lewis missed the pole position by hundredths of a second, not some kind of huge gap like the author seems to intimate. His closing on Vettel in the final laps was proof enough that he’s still one of the best, setting several consecutive fastest laps.

    As for HAM, yes, he screwed up and he admitted as much, although honestly I didn’t see enough from the USA feed to get a good idea how badly or not he was slowing RIC. Still, Vettel lines up his car 2 feet outside the box and get’s away with it, Lewis get’s it wrong in a *stacked* pit stop and you call foul? Boo, hiss…

    This smacks of either Scandinavian or Tifosi propaganda.

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