Toto Wolff Dismisses Mercedes Using Valtteri Bottas as a Pawn to Benefit Lewis Hamilton in Baku

Published 06/05/2021, 11:59 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Baku City Circuit, Baku, Azerbaijan – June 5, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton reacts after qualifying in second position Pool via REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov


The qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was nothing short of chaotic. With four red flags in total across all three sessions, some drivers ended up falling short of their expectations. However, Lewis Hamilton was not one of those drivers.

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Despite Mercedes struggling in the practice sessions, the Briton qualified P2 for Sunday’s race. In addition, he qualified ahead of his title rival Max Verstappen, who he trails by four points.

One of the talking points with Hamilton’s qualifying session is the tow he got from his teammate, Valtteri Bottas in Q3. The tow helped Hamilton gain a massive speed advantage, which influenced his time greatly.

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Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff spoke about Hamilton’s lap and how it all came together.

Wolff reveals Lewis Hamilton made the call to go second

According to Mercedes, a tow on the 2.2km straight to the finish line improves lap times by six-tenths of a second. Considering how close the times were in the Top 10, gaining this much time makes a vast difference in the Baku City Circuit.

Formula One F1 – Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Baku City Circuit, Baku, Azerbaijan – June 5, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in the pits during qualifying Pool via REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Although Hamilton qualified P2, Bottas qualified P10 after Q3 ended with a red flag caused by Yuki Tsunoda. Wolff responded to questions on the tow by saying the Briton made the call to go behind Bottas.

Speaking to Sky Sports, as reported by RacingNews365, the Austrian said, “So we have a rule at the beginning of the season. Any driver can decide whether he wants to go first or second, this weekend this was Lewis’ call. And he decided to go second. Nothing surprising.”

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Wolff: Hamilton and Bottas chose different configurations

Although Hamilton mentioned the car has competitive pace in the post-race interview, Mercedes looked weaker in single-lap pace. Despite this weakness, Hamilton and Bottas have seven cars in between them on the starting grid.

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Wolff mentioned Hamilton and Bottas taking different routes to try and find success in terms of car setup. “We debated it and we have a lower downforce configuration and the higher one. Valtteri opted for the higher downforce configuration and Lewis for the lower but there’s not a lot in it,” said Wolff.

A win tomorrow will take Hamilton back to the top of the driver’s championship, irrespective of where Verstappen finishes. However, the Briton has his work cut out for him, with his teammate further back in P10 and the 90-degree turns of Baku posing a major challenge after a two-year hiatus.

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Sanket Nair

344 articles

Sanket Nair is an F1 Author at EssentiallySports. A Sports Management student, he is a huge fan of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo and hopes to see Red Bull break Mercedes' dominance and win the World Championship soon. Sanket has been hooked to the sport ever since he watched the battle for the 2010 World Championship go down to the wire at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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