Williams defends Silverstone team orders
Williams believes enforcing team orders on its drivers early in the race did not compromise its chance to challenge for victory at the British Grand Prix.
Drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas controlled the early stages of the race at Silverstone for the Grove squad after jumping the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the start.
However, while Massa led it appeared that second placed Bottas had more pace than his team-mate, although Williams strategists told its drivers not to race each other.
A call was made later to allow Bottas to pass Massa cleanly but the Finn was unable to make the move.
The Williams drivers then lost track position to Hamilton, who capitalised from an undercut, to move into the lead after the first round of pit stops.
A late rain shower ultimately ended Massa and Bottas’ hopes as they finished fourth and fifth after being hampered by a mistimed call for intermediates tyres.
After failing to maximise its early dominance, Williams maintains the use of team orders was the correct strategy call at that point of the race, according to performance chief Rob Smedley.
“What we didn’t want them (the drivers) to do was to be fighting each other too hard and back ourselves into Mercedes, so we just said if you can make a clean pass then do it, thats fine,” Smedley told SkySports F1.
“We told them in the first couple of laps to hold station and not hold each other up which is what they did and then we said you are free to race as long as it is clean. I think it was absolutely the right thing to do.
“What we did was we protected ourselves to try and win the grand prix against the faster car (Mercedes) by not having them fighting each other and holding each other up.
“What we said to him (Bottas) was he could have driven around him (Massa) as long as he doesn’t hold him up thats fine.
“They were fine to race each other as long as they didn’t hold each other up.
“I’m absolutely not disappointed with today at all.
“We came here knowing that we are constantly upgrading the car and bringing bits to it where we want to find more performance.
“Its been the first event of the year that we have out-qualified Ferrari on pace and we were three or four tenths quicker in the race.
“I’m really happy because we are going in the right direction and we will bring more to the next race.”
Bottas refused to completely blame the use of team orders as the reason why the outfit was unable to ultimately challenge for the win.
The Finn was disappointed that he was denied the chance to challenge Massa earlier in the race.
“Its difficult to say afterwards (if team orders cost us the chance to challenge for the win) but at that point I felt I had a bit more pace and I had one or two really good opportunities when I was not allowed to race, so for me it’s a bit disappointing,” said Bottas.
“For sure there is some thinking about it so we will have to go through what could have been possible today. I think the main problem was stopping one lap too late.
“For sure we will have to go through everything to see what can be done better.”
Meanwhile, Massa argued after the race that he was quicker on hard compound tyres and the team was right to enforce team orders.
“It was a shame and frustrating that we could not finish on the podium. We cannot forget the result was positive but it could have been fantastic,” said Massa.
“I was quicker on the hard tyre. It was definitely not the right thing to do (to let him pass). He was on the DRS so it was easier for him to follow me on the long straights.”