After Lewis Hamilton gave up his first three-way battle with Verstappen and Bottas to prepare for victory at the Portuguese Grand Prix, Mercedes decided to change their approach with Bottas and chase the bonus point from the fastest lap.
Bottas was no longer in contention for the P2 after an earlier sensor issue, so Mercedes got him to mount the soft rubber and make a few attempts.
In doing so, it created a window for Red Bull to stop Verstappen a lap later and also chase down the fastest lap with cooler tires. He was able to fix it, but removed the time for going over the track limits, meaning that the fastest lap and the bonus point were returned to Bottas.
A bullet dodged for Mercedes, but one they were “stupid” not to see coming.
When asked in the Portuguese GP report if it was a mistake to dress Bottas a lap earlier than Verstappen, Vowles replied: “Short answer, yes.
“The soft tire was a difficult tire to process and even more so, we thought maybe a few attempts would be safer.
“It was insane, and in truth, we hadn’t fully considered all the consequences of our stop much earlier, which allowed Verstappen to stop as well.
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Poleman Bottas had led the race in the opening stages before being passed by Hamilton and Verstappen, but as the 54th lap of the race approached he started to come back to Verstappen for the P2.
Unfortunately, a failed sensor cost Bottas precious time, and by this point his P2 chances were gone.
“On lap 54 of the race, Valtteri entered the start / finish straight and lost a significant amount of speed in the straight, enough to lose a few seconds of race time,” explained Vowles.
“It continued in the next round.
“We have a number of sensors throughout the car, but mostly around the engine block, and the sensors are there to make sure we protect the engine block if something goes wrong.
“In this case the power unit was actually perfectly correct but one of the sensors was reading some very inaccurate numbers and put the engine in protection mode, actually tried, if it was true, to protect the unit of power, a unit of power that we have to run for a certain number of races.
“And after a short period of time, those two rounds, the sensor failed and as a result the power supply came back to normal power, there was nothing more to do.
“Obviously we also have, and we were looking through that at our disposal, a number of ways to change what the powertrain is doing in terms of recovery strategies.
“So we have default modes that you may have heard called over the radio, which allow us to fix specific sensors that may be disturbed.
“In the end, it cost Valtteri any chance to come back to second place. So far he had done an incredible job of closing the gap with Verstappen, and he was on his gearbox about to put pressure on him.
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