7 July 2015
F1 British Grand Prix: Wolff sympathetic over Williams’ tactical dilemma
Mercedes' Toto Wolff says watching Williams deliberate over how best to handle its front-running performance reminded him of his own predicament as the Silver Arrows were in their F1 ascendancy.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has admitted that Williams' apparent safety first gameplan in Sunday's British Grand Prix was strangely familiar.
Speaking after Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had racked up a sixth 1-2 for the Silver Arrows, Wolff said that he had a lot of sympathy for its Grove-based rival, which had held a similarly-dominant position for the first 20 laps of the race.
Despite the two Mercedes having qualified on the front row of the grid, it was Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas who controlled the race from the off, bursting between Hamilton and Rosberg as the lights went out. While their surprise appearance out front made the race more exciting than it might ordinarily have been, it also appeared to put Williams in some sort of quandary, with Bottas clearly faster than his veteran team-mate, and keen to overtake.
Although Williams' head of vehicle performance, Rob Smedley, would later deny that such a call had been made, both drivers were briefly told not to race each other, despite Bottas insisting that he could pass Massa on several occasions. When the pit-wall relented and finally advised the Finn that he could make a move provided it was 'clean' and he could pull away afterwards, they were met with a curt reply announcing that it was now 'too late' as his tyres had past their best.
The pair remained 1-2 until the first round of pit-stops, where Hamilton stole the undercut to emerge in front. The arrival of rain in the later stages then put paid to any podium hopes Williams may have held, with first Rosberg and then Sebastian Vettel finding better performance in the conditions to take second and third behind the reigning world champion.
The result was a blow to one of F1's longest-standing stalwarts, and Wolff – who insists that his drivers are free to race - admitted that he could empathise with Williams' dilemma of how best to approach the race from a position it had not expected to be in.
“Sometimes I had a little bit of déjà vu, like it was us in 2013 when we found ourselves in P1 and P2 and you are surprised,” Wolff explained, “You don't want to risk the team result. It's very difficult to expect bold calls and, probably, Valtteri would have built a gap if they had let him go.
“That was one thing…. The other thing was that, when the rain hit, we split the strategies, with Lewis pitting and Nico staying out - and they didn't do that. But it's so easy from the outside to say what they should have done. I'm not in there and they were probably caught on the wrong foot.”
Massa and Bottas eventually finished fourth and fifth respectively, with the Finn sympathetic despite clearly lamenting a missed opportunity.
“I think the team wanted to, because we were in very good positions, settle things down,” he reasoned, “They wanted us not to lose time battling, so I think that was the thinking behind it. But of course, for me, it was disappointing. It's easy to say afterwards, [but] there were possibly things we could have done today in the race.”
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