Mercedes ‘never planned’ a slipstreaming strategy

Michelle Foster
Valtteri Bottas looking stern at the Qatar GP. Lusail November 2021.

Valtteri Bottas looking stern after qualifying at the Qatar Grand Prix. Lusail November 2021.

Losing pole position to Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas says Mercedes “never planned” on trying the tow that so helped the Red Bull driver as “usually it goes wrong”.

Verstappen will start Sunday’s title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from pole position, the Red Bull driver having pipped Lewis Hamilton to P1 by almost four-tenths of a second.

It was an impressive lap from Verstappen, and one that surprised many as Hamilton went into qualifying as the favourite.

Verstappen was given a helping hand by his team-mate Sergio Perez, the Mexican driver giving him the slipstream throughout the opening nine corners before pulling off the racing line and leaving it the Dutchman to do the rest.

Seeing the advantage it gave the Red Bull driver, pundits wondered if Mercedes would do the same, getting Bottas to tow his team-mate around the track.

They didn’t with Bottas revealing they had “never planned” for such a situation.

“We never planned that strategy, because usually it goes wrong,” he told Sky Italia.

“For them it worked well, we didn’t do that because usually it can compromise a lot the other driver. But for them it worked.”

While Hamilton will line up second on the grid, needing to beat Verstappen to win the World title, Bottas is only P6.

The Finn did not have a good qualifying session in his final race weekend as a Mercedes driver.

“For sure I hoped for a better result,” said the 2022 Alfa Romeo driver.

“I knew from Friday that we changed the engine with an older one so I knew it would be difficult because there’s a deficit of a couple tenths.

“And as for the set-up, I focused especially on the race, it probably was not a perfect set-up for the qualifying.

“We’ll see on Sunday if it works or not.”

Bottas along with Hamilton will be starting the race on the medium tyres with Verstappen the softs having flat-spotted what would have been his race medium tyres in Q2.

Bottas said: “I think it opens up more opportunities, also different strategies.

“We can go longer in the first stint if we want to, while with the soft tyres you can’t because they degrade quickly. For sure it will be interesting because we have different tires than Red Bull.”

Additional reporting from Luca Brambilla


Verstappen starting on pole ahead of Hamilton

The championship rivals will be on different strategies in the title deciding race.