Toto Wolff says Valtteri Bottas was unable to defend his position in the Austrian Grand Prix because Mercedes suffered from “painful” overheating issues.
Bottas was running in second place when Max Verstappen caught him in the latter stages of the race, but did not offer much defense when the Red Bull driver went down the inside into Turn 3. At that point Mercedes was struggling with its power unit, forcing Bottas to lift and coast, and Wolff said it was pointless for the Finn to take any risks by defending robustly.
“To be honest you can defend like a lion, but if you have a car that is fundamentally one and a half second or two seconds off the pace, it’s just a question of time when you are being eaten up,” Wolff said. “You can see that Max just closed the gap so quickly to Charles. I think if he would not have been overtaken there, he would have lost more time and probably lost out to Sebastian in the end.
“We knew that it was our Achilles heel, and we were carrying the problems since the beginning of the season. We tried to work on mitigating the performance loss, but at the end it was really painful to watch cruising, not being able to defend or attack.”
Wolff admitted that Mercedes was had run out of options to deal with the conditions, which included ambient temperatures exceeding 95.F.
“The next step would have been to remove all the bodywork,” he said. “So that was not really an option because the sponsors wouldn’t have liked it! Right on the limit. We couldn’t do anything anymore, and it was already very damaging for performance what we did. There was no step left anymore.”
Lewis Hamilton was running competitively before his pit stop but then lost pace due to a damaged front wing, and Wolff said the car looked capable of challenging for victory had Hamilton’s race gone more smoothly.
“I think when you look at the positives, we had the car pace,” he said. “We were running the engine way turned down, lifting and coasting for up to 400 meters — it’s almost having no throttle rolling downwards — and still able to put in some decent lap times.
“So I think we would have a chance to fight for the win. But we were limited by the cooling problems. And the front wing — well, we lost 12 seconds or 11 seconds, so the thing that compromised us was not being able to drive the car but just roll around, cruise around.”