The Mercedes Formula 1 team has questioned why the debris which caused Valtteri Bottas’ race-ending puncture was not removed during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

A late Safety Car period following a collision between Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen changed the complexion of a crazy race in Baku, as Bottas leapfrogged erstwhile race-leader Sebastian Vettel when the top four runners all dived into the pits when the race was neutralised for six laps.

After Vettel made a mistake and fell down the order in his attempts to reclaim the lead at the restart, Bottas looked set to claim Mercedes’ first victory of the season until he ran over large debris along the start-finish straight and suffered a right-rear puncture.

Bottas was forced into retirement three laps from the end, handing an unlikely victory to Hamilton in dramatic circumstances. Despite scoring a first win of 2018, Mercedes’ F1 chiefs were left devastated by Bottas’ misfortune.

“These things shouldn’t be on track,” Wolff bemoaned. “We had six laps behind the Safety Car, there shouldn’t be a piece of debris the size of a fist.”

Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda echoed Wolff’s comments and and criticised track marshals for failing to clean the Baku City Circuit properly under the Safety Car period.

“Why didn’t they clean up the circuit properly?" he told Sky Sports. "For Bottas it was a disaster. For Lewis it’s really good. You could see it. The Safety Car was out forever, why did nobody pick it up?”

It is understood the debris was caused during a clash between Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly and Haas driver Kevin Magnussen during the Safety Car restart. 

Wolff went on to describe the race as a “rollercoaster of emotions”, adding Bottas’ retirement was a “brutal” blow to both him and the team.

“It’s just brutal. I guess that’s how motor racing should be. But being in there, and going through the rollercoaster of emotions. I think that luck is part of this sport and the Safety Car went against us in the past and today it gave us a win.”

“It still doesn’t feel right for two reasons. The first reason is the lack of the pace and the second reason is the quickest car on track DNF’d with a puncture that was caused by debris on track with three laps to the end. That’s the feeling that relates.”


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