Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton both say that they want to avoid another frustrating experience with team orders in this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.
The Finn’s race in Singapore was wrecked when he was asked by the team to drop back and hold up the cars behind in order to help make a ‘hole’ for his team mate to drop into after his pit stop.
“Neither me or Valtteri had any input into the strategy,” insisted Hamilton when asked about the controversial call. “The team ultimately made the wrong decision.
“The team took the decision to make that choice to have a fourth and fifth, which is better for points,” he said. “I think Valtteri knows it was nothing of choice or anything to do with favouritism within the team.
- Bottas has ‘some unfinished business’ in Sochi
“It’s not a situation we wanted to be in, and we will try harder to make sure we are not in that position again.”
The call did salvage fourth place for Hamilton, with Bottas having to settle for fifth after once again being the loyal ‘wingman’. But he doesn’t want that to be the story of the remainder of his 2019.
“I was at the factory on Tuesday and we had meetings about that,” he told the media in Sochi. “Obviously we review everything in the finest detail with the team.”
However, he declined to reveal the substance of those conversations. “That we’ll keep just for us, whatever we’ve spoken about,” he said.
He did make it clear that he expected a ‘quid pro quo‘ for being the loyal team player last time out, and to get something back from the team – and his team mate – in return.
“We have certain rules both ways. They’re equal. That’s how it goes,” he commented. “But we just need to make sure I’m not going to be in that kind of situation again.”
Hamilton himself said that he didn’t expect Bottas to be playing a supporting role again this weekend despite the resurgent threat from Ferrari.
“I don’t personally think so, no,” he said, adding that he had never wanted to rely on team orders to beat someone on the track. “It’s just never been my philosophy. I want to do the job on my own.
“I don’t think I need help from anybody to do the job that I know I can do, except for obviously my team in terms of doing a better job altogether throughout the weekend.”
The issue of team orders is especially raw for Bottas when it comes to Sochi, since this time last year he was instructed by the team to hand over the race lead – and ultimate victory – to Hamilton in order to help the Briton’s championship campaign.
“I hated that experience and wished that I wasn’t in that position,” Hamilton recalled of the 2018 race.
Bottas certainly won’t countenance the same thing happening this year, and believes that the venue owes him the victory he gave up in 2018.
“It gives confidence to come into a weekend when you know previously it’s been one of the good tracks for you,” he commented.
“That’s obviously a nice way to start the weekend, but in every case you always start from zero.”
A big difference this season is that Bottas is still in the title hunt heading to Russia. He’s in second place in the standings, 65 points behind Hamilton, with more than 30 points in hand over Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel.
“I’m not really thinking about it too much,” Bottas insisted of the title battle. “I’m thinking about my performance and our performance as a team.
“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,” he saids. “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, to try to win the race. Then at the end of the year, we’ll see.”
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