Could Bottas have beaten Hamilton in Austrian Grand Prix duel?
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Jun 2014   |  9:02 am GMT  |  94 comments

A glance at the grid for the Austrian Grand Prix and then at the race result suggests that Williams was unable to match its impressive qualifying pace in the race. But this would be to oversimplify the situation.

In fact the Williams cars of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were very competitive on race day and although they came away with the highest team points score of the year outside of Mercedes, in fact it could have been better if they had been a bit more bold on the strategy, as we will demonstrate.

The race also saw some strategic thinking outside the box from Force India and Ferrari, which contributed to strong results for Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso

Mercedes vs Williams: Could the result have swung Bottas’ way?

An all Williams front row of the grid on Sunday spoke of a fantastic performance by both Massa and Bottas, but also of Mercedes errors. Lewis Hamilton, desperate to reverse the recent trend of success for his team-mate Nico Rosberg, pushed too hard in both his final runs in Q3, while Rosberg was strangely cautious on his first run and his second was spoiled by Hamilton. Only Williams got the maximum out of the supersoft tyres.

Williams also topped the speed trap figures at over 320km/h, so passing them on track would be difficult and this meant that the start and then the strategy would be decisive for Mercedes to win. While the actual strategy was clear; two stops with a first stint on supersofts and then two stints on soft tyres, the timing of those stops was the key.

The fact that Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles was sent up to collect the trophy on the podium speaks volumes for what kind of race this was.

The key to Mercedes’ strategy here was aggression; they pitted early to get off the supersoft tyres, knowing that Williams had suffered from high tyre degradation during the long runs on Friday and therefore would not be confident of running two long stints on the soft.

Williams knew this was coming but chose not to react when Mercedes pitted Rosberg and Hamilton early. The inevitable happened; they lay first and second in the opening stint, but after the first stops they were second and fourth.

On one level this is understandable; they had their data and they knew that they would be exposed later in the race if they pitted too early now. Also, they didn’t know how quick the Mercedes was at this stage, as the Silver Arrows had been behind the Williams.

But when it happened again during the second stops, to Bottas, there was plenty of evidence that Mercedes were not much faster and so there was definitely an argument for trying a bolder approach and covering the undercut from Hamilton by pitting first, around lap 39.

Mercedes executed the perfect undercut on Williams at the first stop, stopping, on Lap 11 with Rosberg and Lap 13 with Hamilton. Williams reacted slowly, stopping Massa on 14 and Bottas on 15 but Massa ultimately lost three places due to a slower out lap warming up the soft tyres.

Rosberg was only fractionally quicker on the in and out laps and on the new tyres, but it was enough. Williams did the fastest stop of the day for Bottas, who was also helped slightly by the fact that Perez was now in front having inherited the lead by staying out on Softs. So he held Rosberg up for 10 laps otherwise the damage could have been even worse.

In the middle stint, after Perez had stopped, Rosberg lost pace for a while, after going off track just before half distance. So approaching the second stops, Bottas’ Williams was only two seconds behind Rosberg, quite remarkable considering how dominant the Mercedes has been this season so far.

On lap 39 came the undercut attack from Hamilton on Bottas. At this point Bottas had done 24 laps on a set of soft tyres. There were 32 laps to go to the finish. Again Williams didn’t cover Hamilton’s stop, because they weren’t confident of making the tyres last to the end and Bottas was duly undercut, losing the place to Hamilton.

So could Williams have been bold and pitted Bottas pre-emptively to block Hamilton and retain second place to the finish? We believe so.

One clue lies in the performance of Bottas’ tyres in the closing laps, which showed no signs of a significant drop in performance. From lap 48 to the end, the gap from Rosberg to Bottas stayed the same, so the tyres were fine.

His last lap, the 30th lap on that second set of softs, was a 1m 12.800, in line with the laps before. So he could have chanced his arm and pitted two laps earlier in the hope of staying second?

After all, what was the risk? Third place was guaranteed anyway. Alonso was the only threat, but he was 12 seconds behind Bottas and covered by Massa in fourth. So if the gamble didn’t come off, worst case was that Hamilton might have passed Bottas in the closing laps for second and Bottas would still have finished third.

Additionally, it was known from radio traffic after that dip in Mercedes’ pace around lap 32, that both Silver Arrows cars were managing brake temperature issues. So staying ahead of Hamilton might not have been so hard after all; indeed, running in Bottas’ slipstream might have further hurt Hamilton’s brakes, further reducing the risk of attack.

Williams has done a brilliant job to turn around the team and the car and the pit work has improved massively this season, as shown by the fastest stop in Austria.

But now that they are racing at the front again they need to be more bold, learn to be more pre-emptive rather than reacting to strategy moves from others. If they do that, the win might well come.
Perez impresses again on a counter strategy

The strategy team at Force India are used to thinking outside the box to get strong results. With a midfield car, which lacks pure pace in qualifying, they often come up with a counter strategy to the norm, which gets either Hulkenberg or Perez into the top six.

Here they did it again, lifting Perez from 15th on the grid after a disappointing qualifying and a five-place grid penalty, to sixth at the flag.

He had a superb start, gaining four places, which put him ahead of Button, who was on the same strategy. This was crucial. Also crucial later in the race was the co-operation of team-mate Hulkenberg, who let Perez through as the Mexican was on fresher tyres and the German poised to make his second stop.

The simulation for Perez’ strategy shows that the best lap to make a second stop was lap 59, but he stopped early on 55. This gave him less scope to attack on fresh supersofts at the end. He passed Magnussen, but Ferrari had seen Perez’ tactics and had run a long middle stint with Alonso so he would not be too vulnerable at the end. He was comfortably ahead of the Mexican at the flag.

Report Sm Rect bann

The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the leading F1 teams’ strategists and from Pirelli.

RACE HISTORY GRAPH, Kindly Supplied by Williams Martini Racing

Look at the relative pace of the Williams and Mercedes cars, especially in the final stint comparing the gap between Rosberg and Bottas. Also note ALonso’s long middle stint and how that worked for him.

Williams Martini Racing

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“Could Bottas have beaten Hamilton in Austrian Grand Prix duel?”



Obviously,in this race,most of teams closed the gap to Mercedes,I can’t help but ask what’s wrong with Mercedes? What do you think about this,James?


James,l’m afraid that you maybe missed a piece of important information.

Massa had a problem with the suspension at the end of the race.Before that,his pace was equally matched Bottas—-the gap between them was 3 seconds in Lap67;Before second stops,-the gap was 3.5 seconds—– similar to the gap between Nico and Lewis


If this had been Toro Rosso helpfully allowing Red Bull to finish first and second, we know what everyone would be saying. So it’s worth pointing out that Williams has a curious relationship with Mercedes, and with Toto Wolff in particular. Wolff is a shareholder in Williams, his wife is the Williams test driver, and he is the former manager of Valtteri Bottas.


Can Ferrari do what they did in 2010 to Kimi so the younger drivers can develop……did anyone even notice he was gone those years?….he looked good at times against Grosjean…..and now looking so bad when paired with a champion…….


James, I am partially sighted, and am having problems reading what I am typing in the Comments box due to the font being use. This font is way too small and skinny. Can you please amend it to use the same font that the replies are displayed in? Thank you.


there was no way bottas could’ve beaten hamilton in austria and williams didn’t go conservative. they tried the best they could and got the best results they could. even if mercedes didn’t pit hamilton before rosberg hamilton would still have emerged ahead of bottas. we all saw how fast he drove while bottas was in the pits.

rosberg make a mistake, drove off the track and nearly got passed by bottas. vettel the four times current world champion, also got into a twist with gutierrez, recklessly crashing into the back of gutierrez yet detailed to make the headlines.


Williams weren’t very keen on risking, were they… I think they lost so many points this year that they decided to play it extra-safe. Can’t blame them for it. Good to see them up there. They might be really strong at Monza

Great race by Alonso, what else could he have done?


Remember Lotus when they first got Kimi?

“Pinch me again, we’re heading for p3: that’s 15 pts ! 15 POINTS” when they could have had a win with a smarter strategy.

Soon though they got very blase with podium prospects.


The decline was mainly due to kimis poor work ethic……that’s probably why he didn’t get paid at Lotus……


they didn’t play it safe at all. they went for it and got as much as they could out of the race. bottas re passed rosberg after losing second place to him at before turn 1. secondly williams engineers informed bottas to brake late when he came out of the pits against hamilton because hamilton previously overtook massa at that corner, soon after he pit exit. if they weren’t interested in the victory, they wouldn’t have bothered to push bottas to repass rosberg nor warn him about hamilton’s attack. no team would refuse to race for a win when they get the chance.


I was quite surprised Williams didn’t play the team game, use one of their cars to bottle up the Mercedes, allowing the other to have a relatively easy victory, we’ve seen Ferrari do this in the past to great effect. At best they’d finished 1st and 4th, at worst 3rd and 4th.


James, a plea for information regarding Ferrari

What they brief about Kimi does not always tally with facts that emerge later. Example, what they told you and Kravitz after Austria

eg., “new parts for Kimi but no improvement ..”

Then we learn:

– down on power

– brakes issue and told to slow down

– strategy allowed 4 cars following to undercut him [rather stupid]

– etc, etc…..

Canada they said Kimi spun, then we learn it was an engine glitch.

Could you please give us a clear and truthful report on Kimi’s issues ?

It really does not seem to be a simple cut/dried case of Kimi “under-performing” ,“unmotivated”, “second rate” or the other pimply hyperboles going about.

Could you speak to MM and Kimi himself?


The conspiricy theory is ridiculous. Ferarri has done everything they can (in addition to the 20 million a year they are paying him) to get him going.

Kimi is a great driver but his skills have diminished. Why do you think Ferarri is thinking of getting rid of him? Do you think they brought him in to make Alonso look good?

It may well be Ferrari are uncapable of managing 2 drivers/teams.


Where is the “conspiracy”?

It’s a plea for facts, so we can decide for or against Kimi.


Ferrari wants to sack Kimi a second time? Source?


James I would like to add my voice to this request if I may


I agree. The results Kimi is having seem to be from specific issues more than just poor performance from him, as we’re often being led to believe.


+ seconded.


1. It seems difficult for teams to change strategy when suddenly they find themselves out of the midfield and challenging at the front. In the recent years Lotus, and Sauber have failed to adopt agressive strategies that seem to be the hallmark of the leading teams. Is this because of reliance on data and models that have been fine tuned over the years battling for positions and points in the midfield. James, it would be interesting to see an article on how these strategy calls are made and what goes into it.

2. Well Bottas did have a chance and there was nothing to lose anyways, and it seems Mercedes felt the same. It was interesting to see Toto Wolff say “Transparency is suffering” and whenever someone says ‘I am not saying it has happened’, i am tempted to think that it must have. Has there been any news of a fresh incident?

Toto’s interview – “


I do wonder what Wollf’s motivation was for revealing the “transparency” issue…..


Because it was media who talked about that before. So he reacts.

to Ashish: good post, completely agree with 1st.


“strategic thinking outside the box from Ferrari, which contributed to strong results for … Fernando Alonso”

It’s certainly thinking outside the box when Ferrari hire 2 drivers @ euro 22m each per annum, then do strategic thinking for only one and take the other backwards in the race.

They could and should have been p5 and p6 = 18 pts

and not p5 and p10= 11 pts.

I would even say that since he had no issues with his car, Alonso should have pushed Massa harder.

Sure he could not match the Williams for speed, but Massa is very susceptible to stupid mistakes under pressure. He did not come under any.


Not pitting Kimi was ludicrous.. They did it in Canada too. Basic rule is you cover who you are racing. Two races in a row Ferarri don’t cover the drivers racing Kimi and he loses multiple places as a result. Strangely when Fernando was behind Kimi in a previous race they pitted him early because he was under threat from Massa, so they clearly understand the concept. The reasonable conclusion is that they only maximize the race for one driver (regardless of who it is) rather than the team (despite all their bluster about team).


Yeah, this is curious, isn’t it.


Extremely average strategy, quite unbelievable actually.

david mansfield

I dont understand your graph, what is the zero line? the UBS report on their site makes sense, its the leader, but the leader drops from the line in your graph. see here


It’s the average lap speed of the winner, every lap.

david mansfield

if its the average, why is the winner always below it? shouldnt they be above it at points too?


The differences are accumulative. The time shown after lap 2 for example; is the lap time for lap 1 plus lap 2.

In the first half of the race, the driver is lapping slower than the winners average time, the graph will go downwards. Only when the driver is lapping faster than the average lap time does the graph start to go up.

The winner will always start at 0, and finish at 0. It is possible to be above the 0 line, but that only occurs when the average lap time is skewed due to rain, or safety car intervention.


Can’t blame Williams for playing safe though given how many points they’ve lost out on this season. They needed a good result and 3rd and 4th behind the two mercs is more than any team could hope for. I’m sure if they’d been offered that on friday they’d have taken it and run.

I believe they have the 2nd or 3rd best car overall yet they are still behind Force India and Ferrari so on balance they have under performed this season. We have to remember that Williams need the constructors points money more than some of the bigger teams so I wouldn’t expect them to take too many strategic risks until they have a secure position in the WCC.


Alonso finished only 18.5 seconds behind Rosberg, are Ferrari’s improvements really significant or do they just appear that way because Merc turned it down to preserve the brakes? Hamilton’s brakes looked to be spewing fire at his second stop – with both cars having to manage brake temperatures, how significant will this be going forward at high speed circuits like Silverstone and Monza or in the heat of Hungary and Singapore? Does the ccar have a design flaw? Just a suggestion, I’d like to see you publish a table of quickest times through the speed trap for each race.


Yes I saw those images of Hamilton front brakes licking with flames, but they normally run at very high temperatures, and when they pull into a pit stop suddenly there’s no air rushing through so initially there’s a rise in temperature. As to what was actually burning it’s hard to say but probably brake dust and rubber at a guess. What matters with brakes is the duration of deceleration involved, and as Silverstone is more of a flowing high speed circuit the issue will not be as evident. I think it is an issue that needs to be addressed by Mercedes sooner rather than later.

Stephen Taylor

What was the main problem for Kimi James?

A Driveability out of corners

B Tyre deg

C Lack of straightline speed.

D All of the above


He was a place behind Fernando before the first stop then the drivers behind Kimi stopped and Kimi didn’t until 5 or so laps later. By that time he lost 3 or so places to all the drivers who stopped before him. Same story as Canada, He wasn’t as quick as Fernando, but would have finished a place behind him and scored good points for the team. Bring back Monsieur Todt!


He was told to slow down after lap 2 because of brake issue. Coupled with average Ferrari pit decisions


Williams always seem to be a bit dodgy in terms of pit calls this year, they need to do better on that front, I believe they have lost a lot of points


Nice analysis, but can someone please explain why were RED BULL so good in Montreal and so bad in Austria? The circuit is not that different – straights and hard breaking. I would really like to know this but so far nobody explained it.

James, do you have something on it?


One word: altitude.

Renault’s system is obviously rubbish where the air is a bit thinner. Doesn’t bode well for the likes of Spa, Austin and Interlagos that are all at least 1000 feet above sea level.


Well this is journalism thinking they know better than the team, and it’s easy to be critical in hindsight. If the Williams drivers had done longer stints on the softs and they had fallen off the cliff as a result, that would have left the williams team vunerable to those further behind, indeed they would have been sitting ducks. The bottom line is that hard data is usually more dependable than guesswork. There’s no doubt that Williams have made a useful step forward, but this was aided by the fact both Mercedes cars were managing brake issues, and that Hamilton was down on energy recovery, and therefore down respective on outright power deployment. As their competitors start to close in it will be vital for Mercedes to bottom out this overheat problem they have with the brakes which sounds as though they are not getting enough air through them. Returning to Hamilton’s qualifying I think he was very unlucky because had the three elements of gear change, braking, and hitting the bump not happened in parallel the spin would have not happened and he would have been on pole by about half a second. It goes to show how much good fortune plays in F1. it will be interseting to see if Hamilton can buckle down and put a string of good results together to get back into contention.


yes, the only outcome was the results presented last weekend. nothing else was possible.


yeah lewis race pace and starts,especially in the last few races have been very good.he just needs to do what he normally does in quali,then he’ll be fine,unless he has another dnf.i would love for nico to get 2 dnfs,to see how he responds.


I think that the Perez incident from Canada must have weighed heavily on Williams’ minds for the two weeks prior to this race. If that hadn’t happened I would have expected them to be a little more aggressive.


No chance 😀

Stella drive from Lewis. Just need Rosnerg to have a few DNFs & Lewis to kick ass.

Lewis at Silverstone has to be a positive. Can’t stand Rosberg & hos cheesy smiles.

Lewis , JB & Riccardo on the Podium at Silverstone & Rosberg with a DNF.

Got to have a Brit wonning at Silverstone.

After the Fiasco of England Teams Performance in Brasil !! Shocker !!

Last Game Come On England no” tin hat” against Costa Rica . Show a bit of Pride 🙂


Those 11 blokes (plus subs) wearing the Three Lions shirts are also the main customer base for Ferrari in the UK, so I bet Luca is hoping they win and then return home and decide to head to their local Ferrari dealership and order a brand new Prancing Horse as a celebration!

Footballers and Ferrari’s………………..mind you, could be worse could be John Prescott and Jaguar…


Yes your right but they can drive a prancing horse as much as they like… they’ll still look mediocre.

At least Prescott drove a Jaguar 😀 not a pracing horse. If he got into a Ferrari

He’d probably keel the vehicle on its side :-D. The suspension isn’t made for a Pie eating ex merchant sailor with a taste for abit on the side.

Still at least its a Jaguar.


As a slight aside, I couldn’t quite work out the difference between the old A1-ring and the Red Bull Ring, apart from the obligatory tarmac runoff inserted everywhere to ensure that mistakes are not punished (remember ’98 when Schumacher, amongst others, launched himself over the penultimate corner gravel? You can appreciate precision when there’s a consequence).

So what did they spend all that money on?


Everything except the track.



JUST the track was left, but actually everything was torn down to build a big automotiv center, event with the old oesterreichring layout.

it never came that fare, VW jumped ship – so 2010 redbull rebuild it all alone… everything is new .. but again – the tarmac is about 85% is still the same they left in 2003



I think they should put a gravel trap on the 2nd to last corner, that would sort the men from the boys, too many drivers pushing the limits of the track


Great piece James,

I’ve followed Williams since I was a teenager when AJ won the WDC.

Williams have always given young up and coming drivers a go.

Bottas will gain lots of confidence from this and lead the team at the expense Massa.


Yes, Bottas will gain a lot of confidence from this weekend and will be shown the door at the end of the season to allow a less expensive driver onto the team. As Mansell, Hill, and others can attest to.


Doesn’t Mr B’s contractual obligation with Williams F1 run to the end of 2015?

I’m pretty sure – 99.9% sure – that Mr Bottas and Mr Massa will be driving for the Grove squad next year unless either or both drivers fall out spectacularly with Frank and Claire…………..seems unlikely though!

Don’t forget Valtteri by some big Austrian chap called Toto and I guess he is pretty keen for his protege to stay at Williams. Just saying………..


I forget to type the words is mentored before the word Valtteri……….incidentally, what is the difference between a mentor and a manager? Perhaps its the percentage cut they take!


No he couldn’t.

I don’t think the Williams has the pace of Mercedes in the last stint on light-ish tanks when most of the fuel has been used. On the plus side, it was a match for the Silver Arrows on heavy tanks, but when the cars are down to about 35KG or less Merc still has the edge.

Do you know what, I bet that Mr M is headbutting the wall regretting falling out with Frank and Claire last year. Perhaps if he had handled his relationship with Williams better, he could have been driving at the front last Sunday and likely for the rest of the season……………

What’s that old cliche? Don’t burn bridges as you never know when you may need to cross the river? Especially the bridge directed to Francis Owen Garbett Williams racing cars and daughter plc at Grove, Oxfordshire???


If I was Mr M, I might be thinking my money was used to build a car I wasn’t intended to drive. Clearly he had no indication of what the future development was looking like. Was the Merc deal announced after he quit?


That’s a very good point I forgot about.

Of course when Mr M decided to seek pastures new, his sponsors (past tense?) PDVSA had to pay Frank and Claire a very substantial severance package for breaking their contractual fiscal obligation with Williams (I believe Claire went over to Caracas to negotiate the severance package personally – well done Claire!).

I don’t know how much it was, but I’m sure it was £ UK multi millions – money that obviously has been spent very wisely and efficiently on this year’s excellent chassis.

As for the Merc deal, I don’t know, but you know what, Williams deciding to say au revior to Renault was not so much dodging a bullet as dodging an AK47!


Nice write up JA.

So did Williams mess up their calculations on tyre wear from quali? Clearly they missed something in their data as it looks like they had some performance in hand, and to make things worse they didn’t adjust it after the first stint on softs when it looked like tyre wear was holding up.

I feel for Massa, poor pitstop and down to 4th for the rookie to get the podium.

Williams improving, but can do better – B+

One more comment, I think there’s a case of Williams not being positive on strategy because they gave up on the win on Saturday thinking Merc would blow them away, which wasn’t the case. James touched on this already, but there’s something to say about racing the team that turns up on the day – not what you saw on FP1/FP2. Interesting how a team’s psychology changes when its had some hard few years, but its a matter of time before the winning pedigree comes through. Listening to Massa, I think there’s a frustration there because he probably feels there’s more they can do.

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