After a mistake at Turn 1, it had initially looked like Verstappen – who was starting from pole – had lost out to Hamilton, who swept through into an early lead as the Dutchman was forced to the run-off area.
However, going against any expectation, Red Bull’s made the crucial decision to switch to a two-stop strategy, unlike their title rivals. This choice allowed Verstappen to hunt down Hamilton, overtaking the seven-time World Champion on Lap 52 of 53 and securing the team’s first-ever victory at a Circuit Paul Ricard that previously was a Mercedes fortress.
“Car performance was good, I think we had the quicker car, probably,” said Wolff during the post-race debrief.
“We lost the race at the stop, thinking that we had enough protection against the undercut, which we didn’t…and from there on, we were at the back”
“The fight between the three cars at the front was intense and the two-stop strategy could have been a danger”, the Austrian Team Principal continued,
“We got it wrong today”
It is undeniable that Red Bull have stepped up their game this year - with yesterday being the third consecutive win for the team.
“They have made a huge step forward with their power unit,” said Wolff, they’re much quicker and their competitiveness has prevented Mercedes from making the right decision.
“Definitely [they’re more competitive]”, said Wolff when asked, “if Perez wasn’t in the window, at least with one car we have opted for a second stop”.
Even if in the first few laps of the race Perez seemed to be struggling to keep up with the first three drivers, “he was always in the window”, reiterated Wolff, “so going for a two-stop strategy wouldn’t have worked”.
Valtteri Bottas definitely didn't agree with his team choices. Midway through the French Grand Prix a furious Valtteri opened up on the radio screaming: “Why the **** does no one listen to me when I say that it's going to be a two-stopper?”.
Having held his starting 3rd place, a too early pit stop caused him the podium when in the race’s closing stages, the Finn fell from second to fourth after being passed by both Verstappen and Perez.
“I loved it…that he spoke his mind,” said Wolff, commenting the Finn’s team radio
“We still believe that the one-stop strategy was the best strategy, but when the fight is so strong, we put too much stress on the tyres to make it all the way to the end”.
Despite Bottas complaining about the wrong strategy and being known for not being an expert in tyre management – unlike rival Sergio Perez – Wolff reckoned he was quite happy with Valtteri’s performance and that “he delivered a good race; he was up there with Lewis and Max for a large part of the race”, commented Mercedes boss.
As a matter of fact, although Bottas may not have been happy with his P4, at least he managed his first points since May’s Spanish Grand Prix, allowing him to climb back to P5 in the drivers’ standings after point-less races in Monaco and Baku.
“I think [Valtteri’s] development is going in the right direction. Yes, there is still a gap in tyre management but I can see a real progression in how Valtteri approaches the races. As per qualifying, I never doubted it”, concluded Wolff.
Provokingly, Wolff was questioned whether situations like the team radio could make him take a decision on Bottas’ future prior to the end of the season, but he dismissed the matter saying:
“I think Valtteri knows the only answer to this rumours [i.e., him being substituted by William’s George Russell] is to perform well on the track”.