Wolff says he ‘enjoyed’ Bottas and Hamilton’s Lap 1 fight – and insists he wasn’t worried about contact
Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas delivered a dramatic start to the Eifel Grand Prix as they went wheel-to-wheel through the opening two corners – but rather than tensing up while watching his two drivers fight each other, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he actually "enjoyed" it…
Championship leader Hamilton made the better start from second on the grid to nudge in front through Turn 1 and then gave his Finnish team mate the squeeze on the exit of the corner. But rather than backing out of it, Bottas kept his foot on the gas and hung on around the outside, giving him the inside line into Turn 2 where he retook the lead.
“I enjoyed the racing between the two of them because I’ve never doubted that there will be any contact,” said Wolff. “These guys respect each other, they know very well what the boundaries within this team are.
“Lewis braked a little bit late and had full lock, and that obviously pushed Valtteri wide but Valtteri, in true style as a rally driver, kept the foot down and deserved to preserve the position. I enjoyed that.”
Hamilton praised his team mate’s fighting spirit, too, adding: “I remember coming out of that corner thinking, ‘good on you man – I’m impressed, that was good’.”
Bottas said: "I wasn't going to give that position up easy, so I decided to go for it on the outside. I'm glad I did get the position back for the second turn."
A lock-up midway through the first stint saw Bottas run wide at Turn 1, allowing Hamilton to snatch the lead. Bottas subsequently retired with a mechanical issue, which the team suspects is related to the MGU-H - and Wolff revealed he had apologised to the Finn for the problem.
"I said sorry for the failure," the Austrian explained. "I believe that a two stop [strategy] that he put himself on a trajectory for, would have been something that could have worked out to win the race, but it is what it is. This is still a mechanical sport and today it was us that let him down."
With Hamilton winning, Bottas has now dropped to 69 points behind Hamilton with only six Grands Prix remaining. However, the Finn is refusing to give up on the fight, while it’s still mathematically possible to win the title.