Andy Shovlin says Mercedes “can only apologise” after Valtteri Bottas crashed into Lewis Hamilton’s title rival, Max Verstappen, in the Hungarian GP.
Arriving at the Hungaroring with an eight-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship, Verstappen left with a six-point deficit to Hamilton.
The Dutchman’s race was ruined on the opening lap when Bottas missed his braking point in the wet, rear-ended Lando Norris and pushed the McLaren into Verstappen. Sergio Perez was also caught up in the chaos.
Bottas, Norris and Perez all retired while Verstappen was left to nurse a damaged RB16B to the finish line, his car left with “less downforce” than a Haas according to Christian Horner.
The race was won by Alpine driver Esteban Ocon ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who is provisional P2 after Aston Martin announced their intent to appeal his DSQ for a fuel infringement, and Hamilton.
“Congratulations to Esteban and Alpine on the win,” Shovlin, Mercedes’ trackside engineering director, said after the race.
“For us it wasn’t a very tidy day.
“Valtteri had a very poor start and then his mistake at turn 1 obviously ruined the day for Max, Sergio and Lando; we can only apologise for that, although it’s not much by way of consolation.”
Norris agrees with that sentiment, saying while Bottas himself had “said sorry, it doesn’t change anything now, which is the bad bit of it.”
Horner would like the FIA to look into the matter as the “consequence for us is brutal and in a cost-cap environment that needs looking at by the FIA.”
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Left with one car in the race, Mercedes got it rather wrong for Hamilton at the restart after the red flag.
While the rest of the field pulled into the pits to swap their intermediates for slick tyres on the formation lap, Hamilton stayed out – the sole driver to line up on the grid.
He had no option but to pit that lap, the Brit saying he kept telling Mercedes that it was “dry, dry, dry”, falling from first to last.
He recovered to reach the podium, taking the lead in the Drivers’ Championship as Verstappen could only manage P10 in his damaged car.
“Given the position we were in at the restart,” Shovlin explained, “we didn’t particularly want to gamble on slicks but we were surprised when the entire grid left on intermediates.
“It was even more surprising to see them all pit on the formation lap.
“That is obviously one of the key moments of the race for us, although we wouldn’t have been leading on the restart as having the first garage means the field coming in behind us prevents us from leaving our pit box.”