Wolff "fully understands" Vettel pitstop decision

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Wolff
Valentin Khorounzhiy
By: Valentin Khorounzhiy
May 13, 2018, 5:15 PM

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff says he "fully understands" the contentious decision to switch Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel to a two-stop strategy in the Spanish Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, on the grid
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W09, Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF71H, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W09, Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF71H, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB14 and Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB14
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF71H, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W09, Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF71H and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB14
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF71H leads Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-AMG F1 W09
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF71H, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W09
Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Team VF-18, Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF71H and Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W09
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W09, Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF71H, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB14 and Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB14
Bonnington, Mercedes AMG F1 Race Engineer, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-AMG F1 and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 celebrate on the podium with the champagne

Vettel had managed to pass Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas for second at the start, and looked on course to be runner-up before making a second stop under virtual safety car conditions two-thirds into the race.

With none of his rivals following suit, he emerged fourth – and was not able to get back ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen for the final podium spot.

Wolff, whose cars made a single stop each and brought home a 1-2, said after the race that Vettel's VSC stop did not come as a surprise.

He reckoned Ferrari was trying to follow Red Bull's example from the Chinese Grand Prix, and said his own team was considering the strategy – deciding against it in part due to Lewis Hamilton's struggles to pass Verstappen earlier in the race.

"It's always a very difficult call to make," he said. "We had it in the past, Shanghai was trading track position versus fresh tyres.

"And we debated it today again, and based on the experience we made of struggling to overtake Max, for us it was clear that track position was more important.

"Ferrari did the opposite - you saw that it worked out for [Daniel] Ricciardo and Verstappen in Shanghai, I think this is what they were thinking.

"Always very difficult calls to make. I fully understand why they did it."

Speaking about the decision, Vettel said sticking to a one-stop like the Mercedes cars had was "not an option" for him.

And Bottas, whose second-place finish required a 47-lap stint on the medium compound, admitted in the aftermath that he was not initially convinced a one-stop was doable.

"We obviously haven't thought it would be possible to do the race quickly with one stop," he said. "But the conditions changed and the tyres were behaving better than expected today, so... then it was possible.

"I'm happy that the team was so reactive and we could spot that. And that Ferrari didn't. I think we had a good race, intelligent, today."

Mercedes had attempted to get Bottas ahead of Vettel with an overcut during the initial pitstops, but a below-average pitstop meant the Finn exited the pits just behind the German.

Bottas, however, said he was convinced there would be other opportunities to reclaim second place.

"It felt that I had a lot more pace all through the race," he said. "As everyone knows, it's extremely difficult to overtake here, and I could always put pressure on him when we needed, but you need such a big gap between the [two cars'] pace to get through.

"We were kind of waiting for the next opportunity as we missed the first opportunity during the first pitstop.

"I think with the strong car we had today there would've been opportunities later. I'm happy that we made better decisions as a team and could get ahead like that."

Additional reporting by Stuart Codling and Scott Mitchell

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