Besides the rain, one of the more compelling elements to the 2015 British Grand Prix was the dynamic start and race lead that Williams driver Felipe Massa had compounded by the pass his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, put on Lewis Hamilton for second place in the early part of the race.
Fan were elated that there was another team giving Mercedes a run for their money (which surely signals F1 bosses that fans desire to have more than a one-team domination and intra-team battle for the title). The Williams duo subsequently lost the lead and fell down the order to fourth and fifth leaving some fans questioning the strategy of the team.
For Valtteri Bottas, the issue was difficult to deal with as immediate team orders came preventing him from racing against Massa even though he was initially quicker than the Brazilian and feels who could have pulled out enough gap to potentially win the race or at the very least, score a podium finish.
As race director, Rob Smedley has had to tell his long-time driver, Felip Massa, to move over too many times in his career but it certainly didn’t happen on Sunday as the team were firm in telling Bottas to hold station.
“I feel I would have been able to have pulled a gap.
“I’m guessing [I could have gone] half a second per lap because on the in-lap I was nearly one second quicker.
“No-one should let anyone by. That’s not racing, but it would have been nice to have been able to race when I had the best opportunities, but I wasn’t allowed to overtake.
“Then we were allowed to race after, but I never had that kind of opportunity again.
“Because we were in very good positions the team wanted to settle things down, not for us to lose time battling, so that was the thinking behind it.
“Of course for me it was a disappointing situation, but that’s very easy to say afterwards.
“Possibly there were things we could have done better in the race.”
For Smedley, it isn’t about could have’s, it’s about the team and that’s the way they go racing:
“We don’t want to favour one driver over another,” he said. “It is a team effort and the main thing is we wanted to get as many points as possible for the team.
“The team comes before anybody. It is Frank’s team: that is clear. And that was our number one objective. To get the points for the team.”
Coming from Ferrari, Smedley has seen his fair share of team orders so anchoring to a team-first mentality is a bit of a change for both he and Massa. However, it may have cost them a podium position.
Smeldey defended the strategy in the press but admits that they may have waited too long to make the change to intermediate tires. There is little sense playing the armchair strategist here without the telemetry but it did seem that Bottas was quicker in the initial laps and perhaps he may have pulled a big enough gap to keep the Mercedes duo at bay.
Having said that, it was a long race with changeable conditions and the Williams were not as light on their tires at the Mercs were and it also does not take into account that they still may have waited too long to change to intermediates et. al.
Would they have won the race if Bottas could have passed Massa? No one knows but ultimately having both Williams take the battle to Mercedes was a sight for sore eyes amongst F1 fans. Williams does need to call strategy like a team who is running up front on merit and not by luck prompting a nurse-it-home attitude.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT