Mercedes famously had a weekend to forget in their retro livery for the 2018 German GP, which prompted some critics to ponder over whether McLaren would suffer a similar fate in their retro Gulf livery for the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix. Even though, Daniel Ricciardo could only muster 12th place, a second podium of the season for Lando Norris, due to his third place finish, put to bed any talk of curses. Nevertheless, on a ‘retro livery weekend’ Mercedes had their worst Grand Prix of the season on a weekend described by team boss Toto Wolff as a ‘disaster’ and there will be big changes made to ensure history will not repeat itself.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team now find themselves second in the F1 Constructors’ Championship for the first time since the 2018 British Grand Prix. Even though, the deficit is only a single point the Silver Arrows have now become the hunter of Red Bull.
While Lewis Hamilton’s lacklustre qualifying position of 7th left him out of the running bar a safety car or rain affected race, hopes were high for Valtteri Bottas who having qualified third found himself on the front row of the grid - due to the circumstances which befell polesitter Charles Leclerc.
Having been sitting comfortably in second place, hope turned despair when a race ending pit stop on lap 29 saw the Finnish racer exit his W12 with over 40 laps of the race remaining. The situation arose after a problem with Mercedes’ wheel gun resulted in the right front wheel nut and the wheel itself remaining stuck in place on Bottas’ car.
“Valtteri, that was a disaster day for him, and it wasn’t any better for us either. We lacked the pace all weekend, it’s as simple as that, and then the pitstop failure that we had is something that we need to understand because we completely machined the wheel nut. And with Lewis, we just didn’t have the pace in the car. Commented team boss Toto Wolff.
Unsurprisingly, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says the Monaco Grand Prix pit stop will be investigated as will the design and material of the troublesome wheel nut itself but was quick to support the mechanic in question who worked the wheelgun by naming them as “one of the best” in the team.
Toto Wolff commented to the official website of the pinnacle of motorsport F1.com:
“There’s always many factors that contribute to such a catastrophic failure and in that case, we need to review the design, we need to review the material of our wheel nut because the mechanics that operate the wheel nut need to do it in a way that you can’t machine it off…As a matter of fact, the mechanic that did that is one of the best and one of the fittest in terms of pit stop speed that the team has. Things always come together, it’s never someone’s fault. It’s always multifaceted.”
Valtteri Bottas shared a similar mindset when reflecting on the incident which resulted in another DNF of the 2021 season:
“I couldn’t believe what happened and still feels strange that the others are racing there and I’m here," Bottas told the media as his rivals continued navigating the most famous circuit in Formula One. "But you know, it happened and it’s a big mistake by us as a team that we need to learn from…Whether it’s human error or technical issue, it doesn’t matter; we need to find the issue and if it’s a human error we need to support the guy who did it. We need to learn from this. That’s the main thing in my mind and at the same time, yes, super disappointed…I think I’ve never had it where the race is over because of that. So big, big learning needs to happen from this day,” Bottas added.
Lewis Hamilton’s pit stop on lap 29 also drew enquiry from the media due to the anger heard on team radio by the seven-time F1 Drivers’ Champion as an attempt to bring Hamilton in early to enact an undercut on Pierre Gasly resulted in Hamilton remaining behind Gasly but also Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez. On this matter though, Toto Wolff was adamant that there was no mistake on strategy:
“The undercut looked like the only feasible way of clearing Gasly and with the tyre warm-up and then you know just the gap that he had before, the one, one and a half seconds was sufficient for him to stay ahead,” said Wolff. “There wasn’t any mistake; the out-lap was good, the pit stop was OK, but it just wasn’t enough,” he added.
The past weekend in Monaco meant it was the first time since 2017, that Mercedes had come away from the Principality without a podium. In a televised interview for Sky with the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Monaco GP winner Nico Rosberg, the German driver’s former boss explained how a very different post-race was ahead of him:
“I had more fun when we won in 2013 and we partied until seven o clock in the morning with you,” said Wolff. “Somebody drank the water from the flowers. And this time there’s going to be no party. I’m going home, I’m going to look at the data, watch the race again, and have a pizza.”
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team is not an organization to shy away from a challenge. The seven-time consecutive Constructor Championship winners will regroup, refocus, and come again. This battle cry was heard loud and clear on www.mercedesamgf1.com when Toto Wolff shared further thoughts about his disastrous 2021 Monaco GP:
“You have to take a weekend like this on the chin - today we lost a few points but this is a long championship, it is going to swing back and forth and in the end we will see in Abu Dhabi who has their nose ahead. We will regroup and look back, as much as it hurts, to learn the lessons and come back stronger.”
With five races competed and a further 18 planned Grand Prix ahead, the 2021 Formula One Championship is set to be a classic.