British Grand Prix – Toto Wolff has praised his driver Valtteri Bottas, after the Mercedes driver defended brilliantly against Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the closing stages at Silverstone.
Bottas had moved up to P2 at the very start of the race, capitalising on Lewis Hamilton’s slow getaway. Shadowing Sebastian Vettel through the first stint of the race, Bottas appeared to hold on to his tyres better over the opening twenty laps to close up to within three seconds of the Ferrari before the pitstops.
Losing a small bit of ground due to Vettel pitting first, Bottas was again closing in slightly when the Safety Car came out to cover Marcus Ericsson’s crash. This gave Ferrari & Red Bull the opportunity to come in for fresh tyres without losing time, although it meant they ceded position to Bottas.
With the Finn leading for the final ten lap sprint to the flag, the question was whether his now quite old Medium tyres could last to the finish. Coming under intense pressure from Sebastian Vettel on fresh Softs, Bottas managed to hold off his initial attack through Brooklands and Woodcote but eventually lost the position under braking for Brooklands with five laps to go as Vettel capitalised on his shorter braking distance requirements.
Bottas’ tyres seemed to give up the ghost after that, ceding position to Lewis Hamilton before also being overtaken by the other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. Falling from P1 to P4 within sight of the chequered flag stung, but his team boss praised his man for his ‘lion’ defence: “We gave it everything to try and claim the win – and he arguably would have done so without the first Safety Car period, as he was closing fast on Sebastian at that point. It was encouraging to see the underlying pace of the car – and that we had better tyre usage than our competitors.”
“We made the right call to leave both cars out under the Safety Car: we had planned to do the opposite to Ferrari, as it was our best chance to win, so when they pitted we stayed out on track with both cars. We took the improved track position and knew it would be tough to hold on. Valtteri defended like a lion but just couldn’t hold off Sebastian as the tyres were dropping away – and still did a great job to take P4.”
A downbeat Bottas didn’t take too much solace from his bosses words, clearly disappointed to have lost out so close to the finish: “Leading the race and then dropping to fourth in the last few laps feels pretty bad. The others pitted under the Safety Car, but we took the risk and stayed out to get ahead of Sebastian. It worked out initially, everything felt fine in the beginning. I was giving it everything I could in the re-starts, I had to push like in qualifying, but with about five laps to go, the tyres just could not take it any more. I tried everything to not give up the lead, but there was nothing I could do at that point to defend against the others on the fresher tyres.”
“We knew a one-stop was not going to be easy, but we decided to take the risk. Unfortunately, that stint on the Medium tyres was just a bit too long today. It’s always easy to judge these things in hindsight, but at the point we made the call to stay out I was on the same page. I could have easily taken second place today, but we decided to go for it. I will continue to give it everything and I’m sure that one day it will work out.”