Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff fears the damage to Valtteri Bottas’ car from his high-speed crash with George Russell could limit the team’s development over the season.
Bottas and Williams driver Russell collided at Turn 2 whilst battling for ninth place in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, with the incident causing a red-flag stoppage.
The pair apportioned blame on each other for the collision, with Bottas claiming Russell was clearly at fault, while the Briton believed Bottas may have driven differently against another driver in the same situation.
The stewards later deemed the crash a racing incident, but Wolff felt Mercedes junior Russell has “lots to learn” and shouldn’t have made a risky manoeuvre.
Mercedes now has the more pressing matter of trying to figure out how much expense the damage to Bottas’ car will impact them in the first year of F1’s new cost cap.
Wolff believes Mercedes’ planned upgrades for 2021 could now be hindered, which could leave them on the back foot in its title battle with rivals Red Bull.
“It’s quite a big shunt,” Wolff said, as quoted by Motorsport.com. “Our car is almost a write-off in a cost-cap environment that is certainly not what we needed, and probably it’s going to limit upgrades that we’re able to do.
“And simply the fact that we ended there by losing it in the wet, because there was no contact, losing it on the wet, and making both cars crash out is not what I expect to see.
“We are very stretched on cost cap, and what we always feared is a total write-off of a car. This one is not going to be a total write-off, but almost, and that is not something we really wanted.”
The cost of unexpected crash damage is going to felt more this year as teams are limited to a budget of $145m in 2021.
Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin revealed it would need to analyse the damage from Bottas’ car to see if anything could be salvaged for the upcoming races.
“It is extensive, and whether or not there’s any damage on the power unit side is one of the things that we need to check carefully,” Shovlin said.
“Because he didn’t finish the race, the gearbox isn’t a concern. But the new factor for us this year is that we’re all cost capped. This sort of damage isn’t really in the plan.
“Our drivers have been incredibly good at getting through seasons without breaking much in recent years, and certainly in terms of the bill in terms of carbon work and metal work will be very extensive from that.
“So we’ll go through and look at what we can actually salvage, and get the cars back together for Portimao. But it is quite a concern when you have these sort of incidents.”
Shovlin said teams would have to be “mindful” of spending money on spare parts as working on the basis of replacing them once they’re at the end of their life cycle has gone out of the window.
“If you have a series of these kind of large accidents that are doing significant damage – and this has been bad for us, because we’ve had a front wing with Lewis [Hamilton] as well – then that will definitely exceed our allocation for what we have available to spend on the parts,” Shovlin explained.
“In an ideal world, you run them to life, you don’t break them, anything that you do break, hopefully it’s end of life or something that is about to be obsolete.
“But that is definitely not the case here. So it is really a factor of the cost cap, and the money has got to come from somewhere.
“Ultimately if it becomes a big problem, it can start to hit your development budget. So we do need to be mindful of that moving forward.”