But any chance for Bottas to win the opening round of the 2021 F1 season was lost after he was passed for third by the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc at the start.
By the time Bottas had reclaimed the position, his gap to the leaders made Mercedes decide that following Hamilton’s strategy of trying to undercut Verstappen was the best option. A slow second pitstop due to wheel gun issues further compromised that effort and all but guaranteed third place for Bottas.
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, is interviewed
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
After the race, Bottas said he was disappointed and surprised that his team put him on a “defensive” strategy.
“Disappointing for sure,” he said. “Good for the team as we got good points, but from my side strategy-wise we went on the defensive side instead of attacking, which I’m quite surprised by and it’s not quite normal.
“Then I had a slow pitstop and that took away any opportunities.
“For sure we managed to have the two cars [up front] and that way we could play with the strategy but I still think from my side there was more to get today.”
When asked by Autosport if there was an alternative strategy Mercedes could have chosen, Wolff explained there was no other option on the table, pointing out that Bottas compromised his own chances by being passed by Leclerc at the start.
“I think there wasn’t any strategy on the table,” Wolff said when asked about Bottas’ comments. “Because we tried to undercut also with Valtteri that I think would change race for him.
“The outcome we didn’t wish for was that he lost a position at the start of the race and he kind of couldn’t recover the gap to the two guys in front. The pitstop was there to undercut Max and I think we would probably have been successful, but we had a problem with the right front wheel gun.”
Wolff understood his driver’s frustration as Bottas didn’t have all the information available to him in the cockpit.
He said: “I totally understand the frustration in the car when you have limited information and say: ‘I think we could have done something else.’
“I don’t know what other strategy we could have run. The one stop was clearly not possible, the medium wouldn’t have made it to the end, the hard in the middle stage was running out of performance.
“There was no other option available.”