Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says neither Lewis Hamilton nor Valtteri Bottas had any say in the plan to swap chassis this weekend, admitting it was a ‘team decision’ delivered to the drivers ahead of the weekend.
All season, Hamilton has been driving chassis number six, with Bottas in chassis number four ahead of the French Grand Prix, yet now Mercedes have switched the pairing, with the Briton now in number four.
Yet across the three practice sessions, Bottas out-paced his team-mate in Paul Ricard, topping the timing sheets in first practice.
That was until qualifying, when Hamilton, vying for pole, had to settle for second on the grid, but crucially was in front of Bottas who starts third.
After qualifying, Hamilton said he’s ‘silenced the myth’ as Max Verstappen took pole position ahead of the race on Sunday, with some having suggested Bottas’ practice pace could be down to the swap.
However, Wolff set the record straight, saying it was a routine swap.
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“The point is that there are always items that drivers are going to look at and chassis is one of them, because in the old days you would say, well is there some sort of gremlin in there,” Wolff explained on Sky Sports F1.
“But this season it is very different because there are only four chassis only and they are all carryovers from last year.
“We’re trying to achieve the same mileage. The one Lewis is racing now is the one Valtteri raced in Baku, which was really bad there, but really good in Monaco, and the other way around.
“In hindsight, you can say should we just stick to the same chassis and not change them but they go through so many tests and are scanned regularly, and I can tell you there is nothing between the chassis.”
And Wolff was clear to point out that Hamilton had no demands to try out the other chassis, and vice versa for Bottas.
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“No absolutely not, it’s a decision the team made, and the drivers were informed, there was no other comment about it.”
“It’s in the driver’s mind of course if things suddenly don’t feel right, and that is absolutely fair enough, and we offered a chassis change overnight, but we stuck with what we have.”
Meanwhile Hamilton, who will start behind his main title rival, admitted it’s been a tough weekend for him.
“It’s been a really hard weekend,” said the seven-time world champion, “Mentally and not physically but just trying to get the car into a happy place.