Toto Wolff commended his team’s strong performance and “positive” outcome at the French Grand Prix, despite Valtteri Bottas suffering damage in a first-lap collision.
Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport had a mixed outing at the weekend. Having qualified first and second by some margin they looked in a good position to convert it into their second one-two finish of the season, however Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel in third place had different ideas. The German got a better start than the Mercedes pair having started on softer tyres, and was trying to challenge into the first corner. By the braking zone however he found himself with nowhere to go, locked up, and piled straight into the back of Bottas.
The contact punctured the Mercedes’ rear wheel, damaged his floor and span him round, leaving him dead last. Vettel meanwhile picked up front wing damage, though was able to carry on with the lap and collide with Romain Grosjean a few corners later. He picked up a five-second penalty.
This created two different races for the team – on one side they had Lewis Hamilton, out front and with a healthy margin to second, whilst on the other side they Bottas fighting his way up from last with a damaged car.
The end of the race saw Hamilton take a storming win, Bottas struggle his way up to seventh and Vettel, complete with penalty, cross the line in fifth.
Despite a tumultuous race Wolff was happy and said that this third win of the season for the Brit couldn’t have come at a better time, before praising Hamilton’s ability to bounce back from a difficult Canadian Grand Prix.
“This was a perfect way for Lewis to start the triple header and to bounce back from the disappointment of Canada. Whenever he has a tough weekend, he has this fantastic ability to bounce straight back, and we saw that again here in Paul Ricard. He pretty much controlled the whole race and didn’t put a wheel wrong at any point.”
Turning his attention to Bottas’ race, Wolff said that his performance was strong considering the damage Vettel did to his car in the first-corner incident.
“For Valtteri, it was a much tougher day: Sebastian clearly misjudged his braking for Turn One and made a mistake, which cost both him and Valtteri dearly. When the car stopped, we saw that the floor area around the tyre was pretty badly damaged and flapping about – and Valtteri described the car balance as “shocking”. Taking that into account, it was a battling performance from him, too.”
The French Grand Prix was the first of three consecutive races – the next two being the Austrian Grand Prix and the British Grand Prix – and was part of the first triple header in Formula 1’s history. This gives the team less time to analyse and means they must work even harder for the next few weeks, says Wolff, if they are to carry the momentum through the next few weeks.
“Overall, though, we leave seeing the positive side of our performance this weekend. The car was quick and with our upgrades, it felt like we made a step forward; thank you to everybody in the team who worked so hard to bring them to the track this weekend. But we can’t afford to make any assumptions about what this means for the next races – it’s still a three-way fight and we will need to be at our very best if we wish to repeat this performance.“