Toto Wolff says Valtteri Bottas made a small mistake at the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix, a mistake that would have huge consequences for both him and for others heading into turn one.
Bottas made a poor start at the Hungaroring on a wet track and was on the back foot heading into turn one. Unfortunately, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver locked up his brakes and went into the back of McLaren F1 Team’s Lando Norris.
Norris then went into the side of Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, while with a broken front-left wheel, Bottas then hit the other Red Bull of Sergio Pérez. Debris at the Hungaroring meant a red flag was required, but stewards deemed Bottas fully responsible for the incident and gave him a five-place grid penalty for the Belgian Grand Prix.
“A difficult start for Valtteri, he suffered wheelspin off the line and found himself sandwiched into the first corner and missed the braking point,” said Wolff, the Team Principal of Mercedes.
“A small mistake with large consequences and damage to several cars, and I’m sorry to McLaren and Red Bull – to lose out in an accident like that at the start of the race is tough to take.”
On the other side of the garage, Lewis Hamilton took a podium finish in Hungary despite finding himself at the back of the field on the lap following the restart. Hamilton was the only driver in the field not to hit the pit lane on the restart, and it left a bizarre scene of just one car starting on the grid.
Hamilton then drove superbly to recover into the points, and was closing down the battle for the win between Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel when the chequered flag fell. He ultimately took second when Vettel was disqualified, but Wolff says he would stick by the decision not to pit on the formation lap if the scenario was to play out again.
However, he feels that without the robust defending from Fernando Alonso, Hamilton would have had the time to close down the gap on the leading duo and have given himself a chance of snatching the victory.
“We then had a decision to make with Lewis on the race restart and I stand absolutely behind our decision, keeping him out was absolutely the right call for us, even if it was a little lonely for him out there,” said Wolff.
“It would have been a gamble to pit from the lead, the track tried unbelievably quickly in the sun and it could have easily gone the other way, and then we would have looked foolish for bringing him in.
“It was a courageous drive from Lewis to carve his way back through the field and the win was possible at the end, but Fernando [Alonso] defended strongly and perhaps it wasn’t our day to win.”