German GP 'could not have gone much worse' says Mercedes' Wolff
The Mercedes team were sporting 1950s gear at Hockenheim to mark their 125th year in motorsport this weekend, but their pre-race smiles quickly became frowns in the German Grand Prix as the Silver Arrows suffered what team boss Toto Wolff described as a “bad day” that “could not have gone much worse”…
When Valtteri Bottas made the most of a slow-starting Max Verstappen to snatch second and ride shotgun behind team mate Lewis Hamilton, it was looking pretty rosy for Mercedes. But the race started to unravel when polesitter Hamilton lost control at the penultimate corner, skating off track at the same point as Charles Leclerc had done moments earlier.
Whereas Leclerc retired, Hamilton continued - but he had a broken front wing and was forced to enter the pits beyond the legal entry point, meaning he picked up a five-second time penalty and caught his team off guard as they weren’t expecting him to pit.
Though the initial damage was only a drop from first to fifth, the penalty hurt when he stopped next time around as the field was bunched following a Safety Car and he was dead last. A team decision to switch to slick tyres at the wrong time and another gnarly spin, this time at Turn 1, compounded a miserable day. He eventually crossed the line in 11th, but was promoted to P9 after the race when Alfa Romeo were penalised for a start offense.
“We had a decent start of the race with good pace and then obviously you have incidents, crashing out in tricky conditions, the wrong calls, and this is where it all started to go wrong. It unfortunate [for Hamilton] because crashing right at the entry of the pit lane obviously you are not prepared.”
Bottas looked set for a podium, having run a solid race, but he made a mistake when trying to pass Lance Stroll and crashed heavily, putting him out of the Grand Prix and compounding Mercedes to their first pointless race of the season.
“[The crash] was just a mistake,” added Wolff. “Many others made the mistake, Leclerc crashed and many others crashed. Overall it was for us a bad day, it was for the drivers a bad day. It simply could not go much worse.”
Bottas took the blame for the crash. "I learned for sure a lot," he said. "I made a mistake myself. The team also told me to push harder, I was pushing as hard as I could to get to the podium, so obviously I pushed a bit too much in that corner and lost the rear end.
"It was my mistake, maybe I should’ve tried to stay more calm and taken my time but if I didn’t try that hard I could’ve never maybe reached the podium. At least I could’ve got some points, which would’ve been important."
This was the first time since last year's Austrian Grand Prix that neither Mercedes scored - a run of 22 races - and this is only the third time it has happened in the V6 turbo hybrid era.
When asked if the team’s board would understand that days like this happen, Wolff hinted that perhaps the team should not have allowed themselves to get distracted by their 125th anniversary.
“It shows that you shouldn’t fool around with stuff, you should concentrate on the job,” he said. “We’re not superstitious but we believe in karma. It’s a day to learn.”