Social media was awash with clips yesterday of the W09 in action at Silverstone due to the first sight of a Formula One car on track in more than 100 days. Susie Wolff, wife to Toto Wolff and a Team Principal in her own right, perfectly summed up the mood of the day with her Instagram post showing footage of Valtteri Bottas flying past with the caption ‘The setting, the teamwork, the speed…it’s good to be trackside again.” Against all the odds, Formula One appears to have found itself back on track – quite literally – and Valtteri Bottas was quick to share his own thoughts with the simple caption on his own account ‘Great to be back on track today!’ So, what was the purpose of the running at Silverstone and what has the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team learnt from this first day of running?
First an foremost, the Mercedes brand knows how to please sponsors and fans alike and the fact that the W09 was sporting a livery more akin to its W11 counterpart – the actual car for the 2020 F1 season – was a very nice touch. As well as seeing the Silver Arrow navigating the track, the onlooking mechanics, team personnel and Team Principal Toto Wolff himself were all seen wearing disposable surgical masks, as is a sign of the times.
Inevitably, running the 2020 challenger for the F1 season was not permissible but the rules do permit teams to run older cars and it was for this reason that Mercedes used their championship winning 2018 W09 car at Silverstone with Valtteri Bottas being given the opportunity behind the wheel first ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s outing the following day on the Wednesday. Such an opportunity is not open to all teams due to a combination of financial reasons and available powertrains in the case of McLaren, for Mercedes though, what did the day bring?
"Today I think it was a very helpful day for the team…Obviously everyone being out from racing and the garage environment for a long time, and there are many new regulations, and we need to be cautious with different things for health. It was good to practice that.”
These were the comments Valtteri Bottas shared with the onlooking media. Not talk of grip, racing or the thrill of the roar of the V6 engine, but instead safety.
“I think we learned a lot during the day, how to do things more efficiently and make sure everyone is going to be safe once we eventually start racing. I loved to be back in a car, and now I can't wait for Austria, and to be back racing again very soon."
2020 is certain to be a very big year for the Finnish driver following all the speculation as to who will be racing in the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team in 2021. There are many in the paddock who feel that 2020 is the year when Valtteri Bottas will have his strongest chance of claiming the Drivers’ Championship and Bottas already said during testing, many months ago now, that he knows what he needs to do to beat Lewis Hamilton.
Of course, the immediate challenger for the title may very well be Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen behind the wheel of the RB16. Due to the season recommencing with a double header in Austria followed by the third race of the newly scheduled calendar being held in Hungary, these tracks certainly play into the hands of Red Bull. As well as this, confidence is no doubt high with Verstappen having been victorious at the Red Bull Ring in July 2019 following a superb duel with Charles Leclerc.
For now though, as brilliant as it was to see footage from Silverstone, the main reason for these days of running above all else, is to establish the safety protocols. No doubt other teams will be looking on at Mercedes’ preparation to see what they too can learn from this due to being unable to experience it themselves. What all of this shows, is that we have taken another crucial step towards real world racing and a really exciting 2020 Formula One World Championship.