Mercedes strategist explains what went wrong at Mexico start


Mercedes chief strategist, James Vowles has explained how Valtteri Bottas' botched start meant he was unable to give a planned tow to his teammate, before compounding his error by opening the sea to Max Verstappen.

Speaking in the latest video debrief from the German team, Vowles reveals that the plan was to allow Bottas to take full advantage of his pole position by getting away first and towing Lewis Hamilton into the first corner.

At least that was the plan...

"The strategy and approach to Turn 1 was quite straightforward," explains Vowles. "For Valtteri, if he had a good start, was going to let Lewis tow along behind him and make sure that he covered off the threat from Verstappen.

"The starts, as they turned out, was that Valtteri had a slightly worse start than both Verstappen and Lewis, not a lot," he stresses, "around about four metres or so, but it was sufficient that Lewis wasn't able to tuck up behind.

"More so, Verstappen's start being good meant he was alongside Valtteri very, very quickly," Vowles continues. "The result of that is they ended up three-wide incredibly quickly and early on during the run down into Turn 1."

While the Red Bull driver was able to maximise the fact that he was on the clean line while his rivals were struggling, Vowles admits surprise at Verstappen's advantage when braking for the opening turn.

"The differences in braking should have been a few metres, not perhaps the difference that you saw," he admits. "Ultimately the drivers braked where they thought they could. If you saw Verstappen's comments afterwards, it is quite clear that he was going in there guessing and hoping for the best, and it worked out for him.

"We ended up losing out there as a result of it, and more so as we went into it, as you saw other cars perhaps locking up - Ricciardo being one of them - then contact happened and Valtteri got taken out and pushed to the back of the grid."

In a classic case of 'could've, would've, should've', Vowles continues...

"Had we got away and been in first and second, I think there was a good chance that we would have been able to defend against the Red Bulls all race.

"Conversely, if we were first but we had both Red Bulls tucked behind us in second and third, I think it would have been awfully difficult to hold on to the race lead," he admits. "They could have stopped one car early, one car late and ultimately, we would have been compromised with those two cars.

"Where we finished up, P2 with Lewis, was really correct based on performance sadly after the start had happened, and I am happy we held on to it. It was a defensive strategy we employed all race.

"Of course, in Valtteri's case really, he walked away with far less than he deserved. Had he not been hit in Turn 1, we really should have walked away with fourth at worst and third more realistically."

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Published: 10/11/2021
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