Senior Personnel at Mercedes have offered an explanation for their German Grand Prix team order, saying results in previous weeks, the risky conditions, and the underlying Championship situation all played a role in the decision.
On lap 57 of the German Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton leading the race and Valtteri Bottas directly behind in second, Mercedes Strategist James Vowles ordered Bottas to stop attacking his teammate, who was on older ultrasoft tyres.
The decision neutralized the battle between the Silver Arrows and guaranteed they took an unlikely 1-2 finish in the face of Sebastian Vettel’s surprising lap 52 retirement.
But, the decision left some fans unhappy, with many immediately taking to Twitter to voice their displeasure, given Bottas appeared to be quicker with fresher tyres.
Many fans criticized the Silver Arrows for denying Valtteri Bottas a fair chance at the victory, but Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff has been quick to defend the decision.
“We needed to protect the one-two and avoid losing one or both cars,” he said post-race, insisting the same team order would have been implemented if Bottas was ahead of Hamilton.
Wolff named two reasons for the team order; firstly, because there was “so much at stake” and secondly, due to the “misfortune of recent weeks” – a clear allusion to their performance in the recent tripleheader.
In the French, Austrian, and British Grand Prix’s, Mercedes scored a total of 61 points whereas Ferrari finished with 97, leaving the Italian team with the lead of the Drivers and Constructors Championship heading into the German Grand Prix.
By choosing to leave nothing to chance with a team order, Mercedes re-secured the lead of the Drivers and Constructors World Championship just one more round before the summer break.
Mercedes engineer Andrew Shovlin agreed that both Championships had to be considered when making the decision because of “how close our fight is with Ferrari.”
Shovlin added that the “tricky” wet/dry conditions played a role in the team order.
The Mercedes engineer did spare a thought for Valtteri Bottas, who, because of the team order, was denied a chance at winning his first Grand Prix in 2018.
“It’s never a nice call for a driver to hear but Valtteri showed his class and professionalism today and I hope we can see him on the top step soon,” Shovlin commented.
“I would have loved to win this race, but at the moment I’m very happy for us at the team,” Valtteri Bottas said post-race.
In the immediate post-race interview with David Coulthard, Bottas said he had one opportunity to get past Hamilton during the lap 57 restart and when it didn’t materialize, he was told by the team to “minimize the risk.”
Bottas said he “understood” the decision and remains “sure” his time will come.