Formula 1

Wolff Thinking of “What Might Have Been” Following Second First-Lap Incident in Three Races

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2018 British Grand Prix Start
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Toto Wolff says the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team “are left with the feeling of ‘what might have been'” had Lewis Hamilton not have been “taken out” on the first lap of the British Grand Prix.

This is the second time in three races that a Scuderia Ferrari driver has taken out a Mercedes driver on the first lap. The French Grand Prix saw Sebastian Vettel run into the back of Valtteri Bottas on the first lap, demoting the Finn to last place, whilst the British Grand Prix saw Kimi Räikkönen hit the back of Lewis Hamilton on the first lap, sending the Brit to the back of the pack. Vettel and Räikkönen picked up five and ten-second penalties respectively for their actions.

Whilst the French Grand Prix saw Bottas rally as far as seventh place, the British Grand Prix provided more spectacle – seeing Hamilton charge through the field to second place (with the help of the safety car). This, Wolff says, made it brilliant race to watch.

That was an incredible race – thrilling right to the finish and full of drama.

“For Lewis, it was an awesome fightback to second after running dead last on lap one; and for Valtteri, we gave it everything to try and claim the win – and he arguably would have done so without the first Safety Car period, as he was closing fast on Sebastian at that point.”

Commenting on what the team must do before the German Grand Prix in two weeks’ time, Wolff said that starts are an area they need to put time into.

“First of all, we need to look at our own performance and what we can improve from today. We clearly have work to do on our starts, as we lost ground once again to Ferrari. But after yesterday’s very close qualifying session, it was encouraging to see the underlying pace of the car – and that we had better tyre usage than our competitors.”

Mercedes strategy has come under a lot of fire recently – particularly in wake of the Austrian Grand Prix, where a decision not to pit under the Virtual Safety Car could have cost Hamilton the race win, had a fuel pressure issue ultimately sealed the deal. The race at Silverstone also saw Mercedes decide not to pit under a safety car whilst their rivals Ferrari did, and though the team eventually saw their first and third places turn into second and fourth, Wolff says that it was “the right call” to maintain track position.

“We made the right call to leave both cars out under the Safety Car: we had planned to do the opposite to Ferrari, as it was our best chance to win, so when they pitted we stayed out on track with both cars. We took the improved track position and knew it would be tough to hold on.

“Valtteri defended like a lion but just couldn’t hold off Sebastian as the tyres were dropping away – and still did a great job to take P4. For Lewis, on fresher tyres, it got him back to P2 and maximum damage limitation.

“Overall, though, we are left with the feeling of “what might have been” after one of our cars was taken out for the second time in three races on lap one. In the past three weekends, we have lost points through our own mistakes and those of others – now we need to get our heads down, keep developing and put the performance to good use in the next 11 races. It’s all to play for.

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