Wolff says Williams were wrong-footed at British GP

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It’s nice of Mercedes boss Toto Wolff to have sympathy for Williams F1 and their strategy call on Sunday at the British Grand Prix. I’m not sure if Williams F1 really cares what Wolff thinks about their strategy but fans have argued that the team blew a possible win if not a solid podium finish on Sunday.

Wolff said:

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“Sometimes I had a bit of deja vu like us in 2013 when you find yourself in P1 and P2 and you’re surprised,” said Wolff.

“You don’t want to risk the team result because it’s so amazing.

“It’s so easy to say what someone should have done, but I’m not in there and I think they probably got caught on the wrong foot.”

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This is all perfectly fine niceties but this isn’t Williams F1’s first rodeo nor is it the first time Rob Smedley has been calling strategy for race wins having spent years at Ferrari.

I’ve argued that Williams need to call race strategy like a team who belongs at the front and not a team who has lucked into a possible win. I argued that more strongly in 2014 than in 2015 and I’m not quite convinced that Sunday’s strategy call was the surprise and risk-avoidance situation that Wolff claims.

While Valtteri Bottas felt he could have pulled a bigger lead than what teammate Felipe Massa was pulling had he been allowed to pass the Brazilian, I’m not sure Williams was ever going to have the pace in the wet to hold off Hamilton or Rosberg.

In defense of Williams F1, while Mercedes was hiding from Formula 1 for decades, the team, named after Sir Frank Williams, was winning championships so suggesting they aren’t used to fighting for wins is really heavy handed.

Wolff himself was an investor in Williams and was involved with the team when they were running competitively and winning the odd race. The talent level at Williams isn’t fresh from university either. Sir Frank, Pat Symonds and Rob Smedley are all championship-winning men.

In closing, I recall Mercedes having their own issues with team orders and not letting their current drivers race. Then there is the call in this year’s Monaco Grand Prix which was junior league at best so careful with that big noobie blanket you’re tossing about, Toto.

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT

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The Imperative Voice

(a) Sounds like they have team orders regarding passing under even ordinary conditions which is sad (I mean are we racing or what); (b) In this case their indecisiveness cost them the chance to get the faster car further ahead (though knowing Massa’s history maybe he doesn’t play along); and then (c) they get caught out by others making earlier inter tire stops and then they wind up on those same tires. They got caught out on strategy trying to help Massa win. They went from 1-2 to off the podium. Call a spade a spade. If Mercedes makes a… Read more »

Patrick Chapman

Agree with all of your points. Smedley is only with Williams because he was Massa’s race engineer at Ferrari and Massa asked for him because it made him feel at home. Smedley certainly wasn’t a race winning strategist at Ferrari, he was simply Massa’s race engineer, big difference and I think that Williams indecisive race strategy and poor judgement in this race is mainly down to Smedley. He is too conservative and in my opinion is a classic case of over promoted. Williams have a good car, Smedley is not utilising it correctly.

Negative Camber

I’m not sure Williams were ever going to have the pace of Merc in the wet to be honest. Especially Nico when it first started to rain and later Lewis with inters on.

Bob Dompe

Another factor in play, and Smedley may be more sensitive to this than others, if the call went to Massa that, “Bottas is quicker than you”, Massa’s future performance would have gone into the crapper. It would be several races before he would recover to his current form

Mr. Obvious

Well NC, if the quotation above is all Toto had to say on the issue, I’d suggest that your critique is a bit heavy handed itself. Seems to me he’s stating the obvious: Williams was surprised to be ahead of BOTH Mercs at the first friggin turn…and were caught out a little flat-footed. Where you hear hubris in Wolff’s remarks, I hear the candor ( and perhaps a bit of sympathy for his old chums?) of a guy who’s had that same shoe on his foot. Get off of him! ;)

Meine Postma

I agree very much with Patrick. The Sky F1 team also wondered about it during and after the race, and they all agreed Bottas was the quicker car. When Ted asked Smedley about it after the race Smedley looked very defensive and stated they had not given team orders and said they (Sky F1) got the order of the pit conversations wrong, which clearly was not the case. This is the second time Williams lost places because of a too conservative strategy of Smedley, who in my opinion is overrated. Maybe it is time for Williams to get even more… Read more »