One of the most curious moments of the Dutch Grand Prix was certainly the one in which Valtteri Bottas with just 3 laps to go removed the fast lap to team mate Lewis Hamilton, forcing him to a further stop to recover the relative point. Live the team was heard asking the Finn several times to do not try the record lap, and when the purple box for the fast lap appeared next to Bottas’s name, the amazement was general. We tried to elaborate on a little more the analysis of what happened is by listening carefully to thewhole conversation between the wall and the Finnish driver, both looking at the data relating to the “offending” fastest lap.
The first dialogue on the matter takes place at the time of the pit stop. While Bottas is still standing on the pitch, his engineer tells him that they are fitting him with a set of soft tires but that they are not going to try to take the point for the quick ride. Bottas, astonished, as he is driving along the exit pit lane, asks “Why not?”But there is no answer from the box. Shortly after, from the garage they inform the Finn that Hamilton will have a “free” pit stop at the end of the race, and Bottas replies again with a question “So why did we stop?“But from the box they reply”As a precaution, you had strong vibrations“.
Bottas’ out lap continues, but it so happens that the Finn finds himself in front, in perfect location, the McLaren by Daniel Ricciardo to be doubled at the end of the lap. There wake of the Australian, combined with DRS available for Bottas, they bring the W12 number 77 to one top speed notable of 318 km / h at the end of the pit straight, just before the braking for the Tarzan corner. It is always very difficult to make comparisons between the laps of the race as the conditions of the cars change with each lap, so to give a reference to how much Bottas was pushing in his lap, we compared his lap following the “offending” one (the 70th), in which, however, with the soft tire still in excellent condition, the Finn achieved his second best time of the day.
Bottas finds himself with new soft tires and a notable trail that launch him for his lap, and obviously does not want to slow down. Take turns 1 and then turns 2 and 3 well 8 and 11 km / h faster than a “pace” lap and continues launched in the stretch in full formed by turns 4, 5 and 6. Mercedes evidently realizes that the Finn is not going slow at all and asks the driver to switch to “Strat 7” engine mode. Bottas immediately executes and the loss of power it is particularly abrupt and immediate, and can be seen very well from the graph with the white line that suddenly stops growing. Bottas gets it anyway the best time in the first sector (which even Hamilton will not be able to beat afterwards) and continues tackling turn 7 anyway with good speed and the whole winding section of the track with speed between 5 and even 17 km / h faster than a “normal” lap. On the straight between turn 10 and the braking at turn 11, Mercedes opens up again on the radio and this time the head of the strategic department does it, James Vowles. The unmistakable voice of Vowles, who begins his communications with “It’s James – I’m James“, He asks explicitly to Bottas of “Abort his attempt to get the fastest lap by the end of the lap“.
Bottas does not respond immediately, but waits for the passage of turn 13, where he actually does slows down dramatically, and then during the last corner does not accelerate fully and opens on the radio to give a curious answer “I was just playing around“. Vowles then responds with a few words of encouragement “I know, it was a strong ride, thanks“And at the finish line even his engineer thanks the driver, even if in the end Bottas’s time is still the fastest with 1: 12.549.
In the meantime, the information appears on the steering wheel of the other Mercedes, that of Lewis Hamilton, which immediately opens on the radio saying “I need that extra point guys!“. So from the box they immediately recall the British to the pit for the third time, to mount soft rubber in turn and thus be able to get the fastest lap, right on the last lap. We do not know if Hamilton would have stopped anyway, since the fastest lap was already his and leaving Verstappen alone up front allowed the Dutchman to close the last two laps. without even having the pressure of the rival behind.
For the sake of completeness, we also attach the comparison between Bottas’s lap and Hamilton’s, which shows a more thrusting Hamilton engine mode (“Strat 5”, the highest engine mode possible in Mercedes this year, against the “Strat 7 “By Bottas). And clearly a big difference in performance in the selective sections of Turn 3 (Bottas’ Achilles heel for the whole weekend) and Turn 7.
After the finish, Bottas’ engineer opens up again on the radio with his pilot on the matter, saying that in the end Hamilton got the fastest lap, but noting Lewis’s time (1: 11.1) and then St.emphasizing again that Hamilton would still have the window to make a free pit stop, even without Bottas’ stop. The attempt of the box is evidently that of extinguish any possible Bottas controversy in the bud, showing the driver that Lewis’ fastest lap potential was much higher and that the seven-time world champion would still get the result anyway. If that of Bottas was one little rebellion we do not know, it is certainly curious that his “play a little”Forced his teammate to make a further stop and a lap in mode much push for its power unit. Certainly, however, the gap made by Bottas in today’s race and his weak resistance against Verstappen in the most important moment of the Grand Prix deprive him of arguments to complain about concretely, even if, after 5 seasons, that of Zandvoort was perhaps the first. occasion of similar-disobedience to the team logic that we have been able to observe. Let it be the definitive sign of his goodbye to the Brackley team? We should find out in a few days.
FP | Federico Albano
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