I don’t want to get off on some half-baked philosophical diatribe here but during the Brazilian Grand Prix, I was intrigued by not only Lewis Hamilton’s pace but Valtteri Bottas’s lack of equalling that pace.
Bottas lost the lead at turn 1 and Vettel went on to victory with one undercut attempt by Mercedes. The focus seemed to be on the other Mercedes, with good reason, as Hamilton was storming to the front and had he had a handful of laps more, he may have won the darn thing.
the initial thought across my mind was that Bottas was clearly not on the same level as Hamilton. It seems that has crossed 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve’s mind as well.
“It was a great drive from Vettel, he won it at the start,” Villeneuve told Autosport. “He was aggressive.
“When you see what the Mercedes was capable of, you just have to look at Lewis and Bottas wasn’t up to pace. It’s embarrassing for Bottas.
“Lewis finished around three seconds behind him when he started from the pits.
“It’s embarrassing. He simply is not on the pace of Hamilton. It’s been like that all year. That’s his level. Which is a good number two.”
On the surface, it would seem that if you consider JV’s comments accurate and you were slating Nico Rosberg as a hack driver last year, you might think again about the German’s abilities. If, on the other hand, you think like I do, then perhaps there is a better explanation for the lack of pace from Bottas.
The team had a unique opportunity due to Lewis’s crash on Saturday. They darn near built an entirely new car with new engine, new aero, new everything and this was also set up for the much hotter temperatures on Sunday. This meant that the other car may have had a bit of a compromise setup for Saturday’s cold temps and Sundays hot temps. Lewis didn’t have to worry about that. All those new parts meant everything was the latest spec and it showed in his performance.
Not taking anything away from Lewis’s drive but as he charged through the entire field, Bottas’s lack of mounting a challenge against Vettel and Lewis nearly hunting Vettel down and passing him having come from way behind was a testament to a combination of elements.
Lewis’s driving was one of them, the all-new car and different tire strategy as everyone else and the car set up for a track that 60 degrees hotter than in qualifying. Had he qualified as normal, he would have had a high-mileage engine, same tire choice as everyone else and the car would have been set up for a compromise of temps as well as no new aero and wings. In short, he would have had the same situation that Bottas had,
The Ferrari’s were 0.5s faster in the curvy bits and the Mercedes were 0.5s faster on the straights. Vettel controlled and attacked when he needed to, Bottas didn’t’ have an answer as the two cars were relatively equaled and Kimi ultimately held off a charging Hamilton who ran out of tires.
Lewis was my drive of the day but not because he stormed back in an all-new car that was superior to Bottas or Vettel’s. For me, he was driver fo the day for his tire management. He started on an alternate strategy and managed to save his tires throughout the race until the very end when trying to get around a relatively quick Raikkonen.
One could make a strong argument for Vettel as drive of the race because going back to the 0.5s scenario, imagine having to get the middle sector right every single lap for 71 laps because if you don’t, Bottas goes by you on the long straights. This meant that Sebastian was at risk of losing the race in every single sector two. That’s pressure.
Hat Tip: Autosport