Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2018

‘Fist-sized’ debris which cost Bottas win should have been cleared – Wolff

2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff is unhappy the piece of debris which destroyed Valtteri Bottas’s race was not cleared before he hit it.

“These things shouldn’t be on track,” said Wolff. “When we have six laps behind the Safety Car there shouldn’t be a piece of debris the size of a fist.”

Bottas took the lead of the race due to a Safety Car period caused when the Red Bull drivers crashed. His puncture handed victory to team mate Lewis Hamilton.

“I think that luck is part of the sport,” said Wolff. “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 that we lacked a bit. And the second reason is that the quickest guy on track DNF’d with a puncture which was caused by debris on track three laps to the end of the race. That’s the feeling of the race.”

However Wolff felt Bottas might have won the race even without the Safety Car. He ran a long first stint and was setting fast lap times and pulled away from second-placed Sebastian Vettel, who had pitted.

“Valtteri just kept going faster and faster,” said Wolff, “to the point that even with no Safety Car we thought there was a chance because he would have switched late on the ultra-soft and would have been able to try and hound Sebastian down. But obviously then it all started.”

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46 comments on “‘Fist-sized’ debris which cost Bottas win should have been cleared – Wolff”

  1. I fully agree with Toto on this. Why didn’t the marshals clear the debris that eventually proved unlucky for Bottas on the S/F straight during the 2nd SC-period? Incompetence at its best, LOL.

    1. @jerejj @phylyp +1 to both of you (and to Toto). This just should not have happened

    2. It might very well have fallen of a car after the SC finished.
      It was well before the RBR team get together spot.

      1. *off

      2. @coldfly – mmm, good point, most of us appear to be assuming it was from the RBR incident, it could very well be something else.

        1. @phylyp, with the amount of jostling that goes on between the drivers after a safety car, it’s more probable that it would be a piece of bodywork that came off another car after the restart.

          If it had been there during the safety car period, it is probable that most of the drivers would have spotted it before the restart given it was on the racing line – I don’t think that the TV footage showed anything being there at the restart either, though it is admittedly harder to tell from that given that the cameras were focussing on the lead group of cars.

          1. Yeah, I’ve watched it back and it doesn’t look like the debris was there (at the beginning of the straight bit of the home straight) the lap before. Interestingly from the camera looking back from the end of the straight, it looks like more debris falls on the track from the left of screen just after Bottas his the piece that did for his tyre. No idea where the debris was falling from!

        2. @jerejj @coldfly @phylyp @kartguy07 I believe the debris came from the Gasly / Magnussen incident which happened at the restart. I was previously unaware of this, they didn’t show it on the live feed.

          But (just copying my comment further below), even if it did come from the restart, they still had a whole lap after the restart to clear it, which I would have thought would be sufficient as the cars were still bunched up together. Failing that they could have warned drivers of the debris and maybe used yellow flags. It’s possible that Charlie wasn’t aware of it at that point in time

          1. @strontium thank you for that, just read up on that incident. Whoa, I’d really like to see it, as Gasly sounded truly annoyed.

      3. @coldfly maybe one day the cars will have debris detection on the dashboard!

        1. As long as they don’t go with the Testa system; then every car would drive straight into the pit entry lane divider.

  2. Agree re. the debris should have been cleared.

    The SC was kept out for several laps to clear Grosjean’s car, at which time a better sweep of the start-finish straight should have been done.

    Not the first time this weekend where we’ve seen marshals failing to spot and clear debris (I know this sounds harsh, but through the weekend there were a few replays that showed them picking up one piece and failing to pick up a similar piece a few feet away).

    1. Well the debris wasn’t there when the SC was on track. The debris cane from the incident with Gasly & Kmag at the restart.

  3. Real shame since Bottas did everything right throughout the entire race. Guess its racing end of the day, unpredictable.

  4. Well, Bottas wasn`t the quickest guy on track. He was well behind Vettel and there was no way he was going to win without the SC. Admittedly Merc kept him out all that time hoping to get lucky with the SC… and they did.

    1. Hmmm sounds familiar…. where did we see someone benefiting from that very same strategy? 🤔

      1. Yep, nobody said Vettel was quickest after his Melbourne win though…

  5. Gutted for Bottas. Drove perfectly today & would probably have left Baku in the championship lead if not for the puncture, though last year Danny Ric benefited from Hamilton’s misfortune & Bottas also benefited from the late safety car & Lewis’ headrest issues: things like these do happen, unfortunately. Vettel suffering from his own mistakes again though… he’s not nearly as clinical when under pressure as he is when he’s out in front. There have been too many examples of this, IMO. He needs to get that under control.

  6. Poor Valtteri :/
    Its a familiar situation with Felipe back in Hungary 2008, just herw the reason is a bit ridoculous…7 laps under SC and there was a huge amount of debris in the racing line… Baku might provide interesting races, but marshalling here is terrible…

    1. * here

  7. Im sooooooo glad Bottas didnt win that race,Every time Bottas has out qualified Lewis and is infront,Merc seems intent in preserving bottas track position by Putting Lewis on the most unimaginative lack luster strategy that would prevent him from challenging Valteri… its was eye opening to see them going balls out on alternate strategy to try and get Bottas to beat Lewis….although it was the right strategy I would have love to see them be that imaginative when Lewis is behind… yea take that Toto Bottas Manager.we are watching you

    1. @spactus Lewis flat-spotted his supersofts and begged the team to pit him ASAP while Bottas kept it clean, preserved his tyres and had blistering speed once Lewis pitted. Bottas had more pace and out-smarted his team mate today. It wasn’t Mercedes’ doing, just masterclass drive by Bottas. It’s really shame what happened at the end.

      1. Man stop it about him having more pace. Both Seb & Lewis dropped him like a bad habit. Whilst the front 2 where easily clocking 1:46s, Bottas was stuck in the high 1:47s. He didn’t outsmart or out pace Lewis. Had it not been for the lockup, Bottas would’ve still been in 3rd place.

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          30th April 2018, 20:54

          Are you ignoring the fact that Bottas was doing some fastest sectors of the race about 20 laps later than when Vettel and Hamilton were pulling away from him at the start? This was nearly 40 laps into the race when he hadn’t even changed tyres. If Vettel and Hamilton were pulling away from him at the start and Bottas was going significantly faster than his early pace towards the end of his tyre stint, there is little doubt he was quite smart there and very likely will have been managing his tyres. It isn’t always good to try and keep up with another car in dirty air. Especially when it is the same car.
          When Vettel and Hamilton came out, Bottas kept the gap at a similar level for quite some time, despite the age difference.

          I am a fan of Bottas, and from what I read from your comments you certainly appear to like Hamilton. But my point is I don’t think their is much evidence that Hamilton had more pace on hand today as I think Bottas held back and this was one reason why he was likely to be able to have those tyres for longer.

    2. Tin hats for everyone.

    3. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      29th April 2018, 17:26

      Bottas clearly did better than Hamilton today…

      Hamilton locked up early on. This was the reason they had to pit. Hamilton didn’t want to keep going with the tyres in the condition they were in. Who’s fault was that that he had to pit early?

      Bottas may have been slow early in the race. But his pace kept changing. It isn’t sensible to drive really close to the same car for many many laps on a long 1 stop race. Mercedes are worse than other teams in this area. Bottas looked after his tyres brilliantly. Even after Vettel and Hamilton had pitted, Bottas on 40+ lap old tyres was still doing fastest sectors. Even though those tyres Hamilton and Vettel were now on didn’t look great, Unless Bottas was extremely strong here, there is no way he would have maintained the gap to vettel and Hamilton. Which he did on hamilton for many laps. Vettel got a bit closer, but not by much. Then, if there wasn’t a safety car, Bottas will have been able to come out either in front or more likely ahead of Hamilton. But with the fastest tyres out there. No need to manage them as there wasn’t long left. So he will have been able to close down on Vettel. Unlikely that he will have managed to get him, but you surely can’t deny Bottas was better than Hamilton, and due to vettel’s mistake, better than him too.

  8. I actually expected them to red flag it after the Bottas incident… lost all confidence in the track being clear and with only two laps left, thought they might go for the ‘better safe than sorry’ route.

    Be interesting to find out what the debris was and where it came from.

  9. Didn’t the debris get there at the restart? I think Magnussen and Gasly had some contact there so that’s where the debris that ended Bottas’ race came from. It was only there for a lap of racing, not for 6 laps under Safety Car conditions. There was no other incident during the race in that area that could’ve left debris lying around till the last few laps. Having said that, Baku marshalls have always been a bit sloppy when it came to clearing debris from the track, even under the Safety Car.

    1. @xenif1 Even if it did come from the restart, they still had a whole lap after the restart to clear it, which would’ve been fine as the cars were still bunched up together. Failing that, they could’ve used yellow flags

      1. Yeah a long lap like Baku should be enough for a marshall to run over and pick it up i agree, just wanted to say that it wasn’t there while the safety car was out as all the other commenters (when i made my comment at least) were saying. That just shows that the marshalling in Baku can be improved i think. We had a similar situation in 2017, no matter the crash, it seemed like only half of the debris was cleaned from the track before they restarted the race until they red flagged it to clean the stuff up.

    2. Agreed. Probably Gasly’s mirror.
      A shame the marshalls didn’t clear it, but it’s not like it was laying around while they were under safety car to clear the track from the Red Bull / Grosjean crashes.

  10. I thoughts this as soon as I heard about the Magnusson crash. Even if it wasn’t them it must have been after the saftey car. Sky need to slow down a bit and do some proper anyalizing. They also missed the fact that Hamilton’s mistake meant he pit early and from that vettel had to be alive and cover both hamilton and bottas’s strategies.

    1. Sky looked at it many times, they can only analyze what the camera makes available. When they did show it, you could see the tire starting to come apart long before it finally let go, which doesn’t necessarily align with running over an object that immediately caused it to blow

  11. This is Azerbaijan. You can easily spend millions on marketing, chic facilities and a world class track but it is much harder to “upgrade” the people, who should have taken care of that piece of debris but do not have the experience and probably also the work culture that is required in F1.

    1. With the volume of crashes and debris, overall they did a good job so chill out. Only westerners are hard working?

    2. Please keep opinions like this too yourself. (And people think they haven’t been emboldened by recent world leaders)

      1. This was the first year that Bahraini marshals weren’t flown in to run the show, so I think it’s a valid point to raise, even if the wording could have been a little different.

    3. Disgusting comment.

      1. @img343 I am sorry you feel that way. Work culture differs a lot around the world. Terms such as “precision” and “on time” mean different things in Oman and Switzerland. The same obviously goes for “good organisation” and “clean track” in this particular case. If you call my comment disgusting, then you might as well say the same about every book or article (or even travel guide) that aims to explain the local working habits in different countries.

        Add the lack of experience of hosting serious motorsport events to it and you will get why marshals in Baku are not the same as marshals at Silverstone.

        It does not mean that Azerbaijanis cannot learn how to properly host an F1 race but it will take time. Unfortunately the wish to promote Aliyev’s regime was stronger than common sense so the race came before the country was ready for it. Something similar happened in Russia in 2015. You can see my comment under that article as well.

    4. @girts The cleaning up looked way more effective than the circus that is at monza every year.

      1. Not on Grosjean’s car, it a wasn’t. They really struggled with that, and as Hamilton pointed out, they also parked the lorry in a dangerous position, at an angle where it was difficult to judge for the drivers on track.

  12. I am pretty sure Bottas would have still found another way not to win even if he didn’t get a puncture. The guy is allergic to winning .

    1. He has only won 3 races! If that’s allergic, I’d like to know what call Ricciardo, who has won 6.

      1. Crap, just re-read what you wrote. This was truly a foot in mouth moment. Oops

  13. The debris was not removed because it wasn’t there while the SC was out.

    Toto probably didn’t know this at the moment.

  14. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    30th April 2018, 21:12

    I am sometimes more bothered about health and safety than some other people. An example was when I got COTD when referring to the fact I thought it wasn’t safe that the Williams crew were leaning over the track when the cars crossed the finishing line at full speed. Man so many people were against me there.

    But in this instance, I don’t think they should have stopped the race again. There was so much wind about. Not enough to cause a serious problem though. But it constantly kept blowing bits and pieces on the track. Also bit from the edge. The level of criticism of the safety car has started to annoy me recently. Now people seem to think that they should have, I am almost completely certain that if Bottas hadn’t hit that, if they brought the safety car out to collect that, we could well get as many people complaining about that as the fact that it didn’t happen and led to a problem.

    The reason why I brought my COTD into it was the fact that if that person from the Williams team did happen to fall down, (and given he was only just holding on, it certainly was possible), People would be so shocked and horrified that nothing had been done to prevent it.
    This seems to be similar with so many safety things in F1. The viewers often don’t like it when they try to prevent things happening by improving safety standards. Then the viewers also don’t like it if they haven’t bothered doing something that possibly could have prevented something happening. Even if they removed that bit of debris Bottas hit, the wind could have brought something else later on. It was just pure bad luck on Bottas’s side and I don’t think the martials did anything wrong. Some may think Bottas maybe could have seen it. But there are a lot of dips on the main straight and it wasn’t there on the previous lap.

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