Did Williams strategy scuttle a British GP win?

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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.

Botta said:


“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.



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Patrick Dinsmoor

Based on the pace of both of them in the rain, Williams was never going to win this race, so its a bit moot point now. Everybody is focusing on whether or not they should have switched Bottas to be in front of Massa when the real mistake was not pitting either of their cars before Mercedes. When Lewis pitted he was about 1.5 seconds behind Massa, with Bottas between them. One lap later Massa made his trip to the pits and left over a second behind Hamilton. Its the same mistake Williams made last year at Austria. When you… Read more »

Negative Camber

That 2.4s stop by Merc certainly didn’t help matters did it? :) That was a great stop by the team.


Given that Hamilton only just got out in front of Pérez after his first stop, it wouldn’t have been possible for Williams to stop a lap earlier than Mercedes. Also, as they took longer in the stop, it may have been tight even if they had stopped on the same lap as Hamilton.

Will Irwin

The general opinion (related by Martin Brundle) seemed to be that the undercut would not be a popular tactic in this race because the hard tyres are slow to come up to temperature. Well, Hamilton’s out lap after his first stop destroyed that theory; he went from 1.2 sec down to about 3 sec ahead after Massa’s stop. I think that shows that Williams could not have won no matter what they, or the weather, had done.

But it was great to see someone else leading those first 20 laps… a good race.


I do not like the “Williams could not have won anyways” line of thinking. This is racing. This is Formula 1. ANYTHING can happen, and that is why we love it.

Junipero Mariano

I remember people stating Williams was racing too conservatively last year, also.(Hungary?) Like Steve Matchett said, I’d like to be a fly on the wall at the Williams debrief. I’d like to know the background of their approach to racing, which on the surface seems cautious, but has been known to be successful and can definitely produce a car that has pace.


I just think they were too conservative and slow to react to Mercedes, they mirrored them one lap late. The only way they could have stayed ahead was not to allow the Mercedes teams to undercut them in the pit stops and that’s what they allowed, and they came in late during the rain as well. Massa chance of winning again doesn’t come around very often.

peter riva

Oh come on, this one is obvious… Smedley’s baby-talk with Massa tells you all you need to know. The team comes first, but not for that emotional slob Smedley protecting his boy. Frank must have been fuming. Frank, the “winning is everything” man must be thinking of dumping Smedley. Somebody, please break up that marriage for the good of the sport, not to mention Williams.

peter riva

I am not saying Williams could have won… but when Smedley gave those non-orders to Massa and the do not pass orders to Bottas… at that point Williams could have won. Subsequently, with the rain and pit stops, perhaps not. But that does not assuage the blame for Smedley once again proving he’s not fit to command the team as race director.

Andreas Möller

It is impossible to say that Bottas would have or wouldn’t have won – there are far too many variables in any race, let alone this one with the rain coming, going and coming again. But it seems clear that at that point when the “do not race your team mate” call came, Bottas had more pace than Massa. However, it should be pointed out that it was with the passflap open. What we will never know is if he had been able to do what Felipe couldn’t, which was to pull a gap to the others.

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