Mercedes have detailed why Lewis Hamilton did not return the favour of giving Valtteri Bottas a tow during qualifying at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Bottas was seen to tow Hamilton during the session and later on became vocal over the team radio about wanting Hamilton to do the same for him. Mike Elliott, Technology Director at Mercedes, says that this didn't happen because the team were unable to get the drivers in the correct position to enable Hamilton to tow Bottas.
"We have a set of rules that we apply to make it fair for the drivers race to race and one of those rules is that race by race, each driver gets to decide
whether they go first or second in qualifying," Elliott explained in the Mercedes post-race debrief.
"So, this weekend it was Lewis’s turn and Lewis decided because of the benefit of the tow that he would go second. Now, normally that wouldn’t matter too much because normally what we try to do is to get Valtteri in a good position on the track so that he can get a tow from his competitors, from the other cars.
"One of the difficulties we faced this weekend is we were trying to use a prep lap to get the best lap, that’s how we felt to get the quickest time. So, what we do is we go out the pits, we go round the start/finish straight, we go round again and then start our fast lap. And that’s just about trying to get the tyres into the right window.
"Unfortunately for Valtteri and for us, our competitors weren’t doing the same, they were trying to get their fastest lap on their first lap after their out lap and that made it really difficult to try and get Valtteri in the right place relative to competitors so that he would get a good tow."
An unfortunate side effect of this was that Bottas unwittingly ended up giving some of the team's competitors an advantage.
"If you look at what happened to [Charles] Leclerc as well, we had a similar problem there where we towed Leclerc up the start/finish straight, giving him an
advantage in his own qualifying and that was from exactly the same problem," Elliott said.
"It was difficult to position ourselves relative to the competitors. And on the very last run in qualifying, actually Valtteri did end up in a good position for a tow, he was also on a really quick lap, probably not quick enough to be pole but quick enough to be a lot further up the time sheets but unfortunately the red flag put pay to that."
Hamilton eventually qualified in second place, whilst Bottas was down in 10th. Unfortunately things only got worse for the Silver Arrows, with both finishing outside of the points in the Grand Prix.