A disappointed Valtteri Bottas said he was hurt to be described as a “sensational wingman” by Mercedes chief Toto Wolff following team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s victory in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix. The Finn, who like Hamilton agreed a new contract with the team only two weeks ago, had believed he could race to win, but was forced into a damage limitation race after an early pit stop.
Team boss Wolff said: “It wasn’t realistic for us to win. It is one of our weakest tracks. We expected damage limitation, rather than taking the points. It feels a little bitter-sweet. I’m really happy for Lewis. I just feel sad for Valtteri. He deserved P2 because he was such a sensational wingman. That would’ve been nice.”
Bottas, who finished fifth after a late pit stop following two collisions while running on severely worn old tyres, was upset when Wolff’s comments were put to him.
“Well, first of all, wingman hurts,” he said. “Second, I don’t see any positives in this race for me. It was a disappointing result. We had to pit early to cover Kimi (Raikkonen). Still, 20 laps before the end, I was feeling ok. We could control the pace, but then the rear tyres started to go and I tried to defend as best I could and, in the end, I just ended up being a mess with a broken car.”
Bottas added that he wanted to discuss his perceived role as a ‘wingman’ in the team, or as a driver to be used tactically to help Hamilton’s bid for a fifth world title.
“We need to speak after this race. For this half of the year, the points gap is very big.” He was candid about his collisions with Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo on Sunday.
“With Sebastian, he had a good run in Turn Two. I still had my nose inside and he was on the outside. He turned in early and there was nowhere to go. I was the only one damaged, which was fair enough. With Daniel, it was a similar thing. I was next to him on the inside and I was locking up, but he still turned in and then we touched.”
Vettel, who finised second behind Hamilton, said: “His tyres were getting worse and worse and I was quite confident I could get him. When I was hit, from behind, I was not sure what had happened. I was lucky the car was not broken and I could carry on.”
Later Sunday, Bottas was given a 10-second time penalty for his collision with Ricciardo although the sanction did not affect his finishing position of fifth.