Bottas doesn’t want repeat of Singapore team orders in Russia
Valtteri Bottas finished P5 in Singapore – and, crucially, behind Lewis Hamilton – having been instructed to slacken his pace after his pit stop so as not to undercut his Mercedes team mate. And while Bottas stoically accepted the situation a week ago, ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, he warned that he didn’t want a repeat in Sochi.
Bottas had pitted ahead of Hamilton on Lap 22 in Singapore, and was lapping over three seconds per lap faster than the world champion was managing at the front of the field when the call came from Mercedes’ Chief Strategist James Vowles to slow his pace. Bottas complied, with the net result that Hamilton emerged ahead of his team mate when he pitted on Lap 26, before holding on to finish P4 to Bottas’ P5, and stretch his championship lead by two points.
Asked ahead of the Russian Grand Prix to recount the conversations that had happened at Mercedes since regarding the Singapore strategy call, Bottas was tight-lipped – but he was clear that he didn’t expect to find himself in the same situation again going forward...
We need to make sure I’m not going to be in that kind of situation again
“Obviously we review everything in the finest detail with the team,” said Bottas, who signed a one-year extension on his Mercedes contract ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix in August. “I was at the factory on Tuesday and we had meetings about that and that we’ll keep just for us, whatever we’ve spoken about.
“But we have certain rules both ways, they’re equal. That’s how it goes, but we just need to make sure I’m not going to be in that kind of situation again.”
The subject of team orders was particularly pertinent in Russia, given that 12 months ago, a similar call from Vowles saw Bottas controversially hand victory over to Hamilton to help him in his championship fight against Sebastian Vettel.
But with Bottas still having a mathematical chance to win the title this year, and Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel all within 35 points of his second place in the championship, the Finn is aiming to leave Sochi with the winner's trophy safely tucked in his hand baggage this time around, at a venue where he took his first F1 win back in 2017.
“For sure, it gives confidence to come into a weekend when you know previously it's been one of the good tracks for you,” he said. “That's obviously a nice way to start the weekend, but in every case, always you start from zero.
“There’s still a big chunk of points to be had for the rest of the year, so for sure I need to keep performing and we need to perform as a team to get those bigger points. I'm still aiming and focusing really ahead, focusing on short-term goals. The next one is this weekend, try to win the race, then at the end of the year, we'll see.
“[But] I'm not really thinking about [the championship situation] too much; I'm thinking about my performance and our performance as a team.”
How the drivers' standings look ahead of Russia
|1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes||296|
|2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes||231|
|3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari||200|
|4 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing||200|
|5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari||194|