Saturday’s qualifying session at Portimao saw both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas claim a front-row lockout, for yet another time this season. But it has now come to light that there was a storm of decisions that needed to be taken during Q3.
There was also the question of why Bottas put in one lap less in the Q3 phase, as compared to Hamilton. And in the post-race debrief, Mercedes explained the reason for the same.
Imparting some insights on this subject in the debrief was Mercedes’ Technical Director, James Allison. He revealed that the team themselves were unsure of what approach to take. And hence, left the drivers’ to take the final call, depending on which suited them best.
“We offered this option (one or two flying laps) to both our drivers, and they chose a different path. I think Lewis chose two laps because in Q2 when he was on the medium tyres, that had been his experience. He felt that he got the better performance later.
“While Valtteri had hit Q2 with the Medium tyre, hit it on the first lap and got an absolutely lap out of it. He chose that in Q3 as his best shot.” said Allison.
The outcome of the calls were there for everyone to see. While Bottas thought his flying lap was sufficient to clinch pole position, Hamilton put in a thunderous effort in the dying moments to steal it away.
F1 is all about management sometimes taking split-second calls. So in hindsight, it could very well have been Bottas on pole at Portimao.
“Lewis chose the other path and ultimately Lewis just shaded it. But it was a really, really difficult choice where we placed it in the drivers’ hands making that decision.
“And it was quite a tense period in the garage while they were weighing that up,” concluded Allison in his analysis.
Having sealed a 1-2 lockout on the grind many times over the course of this season, Mercedes turn their attention towards the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on November 1. For if they finish in those positions once more, they will be crowned the Constructors’ champions yet again.