It was all cheers and smiles in the Mercedes garage after a successful Melbourne GP that produced another 1-2 finish for the most successful F1 team in the hybrid era. But Toto Wolff was a relieved man at the end of the race, where he saw both his drivers ignore his instructions about going for the extra point that the driver with the best lap time of the race gets.
Speaking with the media, Wolff said, “Today in the morning meeting when we talked about strategy, I forbade them to go for the fastest lap if we were running first, second or third.”
“They ignored me. All of them!”
“I think it was a plot between the engineers and drivers, because the engineers were keen. I need to reconstruct the radio calls and (find out) how that happened. At the end I am very happy. Collecting that extra point I think is good. It’s entertaining. It’s a great new part of the spectacle.”
Toto Wolff driving past the Ferrari garage. pic.twitter.com/YwVprxIk2W
— Tazer (@Tazer_Official) March 16, 2019
Wolff claims Hamilton and Bottas 'ignored' Mercedes' orders not to seek the extra point now awarded for fastest lap in the Australian Grand Prix. More on how that #F1 point was won through the link below https://t.co/LOJRKUPl9v
— Autosport (@autosport) March 17, 2019
However Wolff justified his instructions to not go chasing after that 1 additional point, which was a last minute rule change that came in on Friday saying, “I believe that it’s taking risks. Especially when you are aiming for the big points, should you go for the fastest lap?”
“But then maybe my reference point in keeping control of a car is my own driving and not the level of the Formula 1 drivers. I didn’t like it so much.”
Wolff is not wrong in his point of view, especially with the new F1 regulations that teams are still adjusting to, especially the bigger front wings that damage easily, a small error could cost a driver his podium finish and one extra point is just not worth that risk.
Bottas, who got the statement win with a 20 second lead ahead of 2nd placed Hamilton, also ended up with the extra point pushing his car late in the race to get the fastest lap. He insisted that he felt it was safe enough for him to push his car given the commanding lead he held, although the risk of pitting for new tires to achieve the same wasn’t worth the risk.
“Obviously getting the big amount of points form the result itself is a much much bigger priority. And second priority, the fastest lap. Once the gap behind was decent there was enough margin to speak about that, and make a plan for that.”
“I asked about a possible pit stop, but its something that we actually spoke about before the race, that its the first race of the season, we don’t want to do silly mistakes, we want to be slightly on the conservative side with some preparations – obviously still racing hard and being the best we can, but we need to make sure we do get the best points.”
“I was pulling back, with some cars behind, went to some other engine modes and went for a quick lap. I am glad I got it, so its obviously now point more.”
Bottas obviously pleased with his performance was on a high and looked a lot more confident than we have seen him be in the past. But expect teams to start strategizing better in the future races for that additional point. Haas cars and the Red Bull of Pierre Gasly might be cars to look out for in the race for the extra point as they figure to be the cars that will generally be in a position towards the end, ahead of the chasing pack and far enough behind the leading pack to pit, to go for that additional point, if they choose to be ambitious.