Valtteri Bottas admitted that he was “hurt” by Mercedes chief Toto Wolff’s comments that he played the role of a “sensational wingman”, as his teammate Lewis Hamilton romped to victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Bottas saw a potential podium finish unravel dramatically when he was involved in not one but two collisions, firstly hitting the back of Sebastian Vettel while attempting to defend second place and then with Daniel Ricciardo as he tried to salvage fourth with a badly-damaged Mercedes.
In the end the Finn had to make do with fifth as Ricciardo eventually passed him on the final lap, but despite Wolff’s comments coming in a positive aspect towards his defensive drive against the Ferraris while on much older tires, it did not sit well with Bottas.
"First of all wingman hurts," Bottas said. "Second of all, I don't see any positives in this race for me. I wanted a better result.
"We thought in theory we should have been able to do that one stop. We had to stop earlier than we wanted because of Kimi [Raikkonen], we had to cover him, and still 20 laps before the end everything was feeling okay.
"We could control the pace and my position, but then the rear tyres started to die. I tried to defend the best I could, as aggressive as I could, but it ended up being a bit of a mess in the end with the broken front wing and everything."
Bottas accepted that the incident between himself and Vettel was on the side of a racing incident, with the pair jostling for the same part of the track in the quest to finish second, but felt that Ricciardo could have avoided him as he struggled for gripping turning into turn on.
However, the race stewards disagreed and handed him a 10-second time penalty, which did little to affect the result as he finished 23 seconds clear of Pierre Gasly in the Toro Rosso, as well as two penalty points – his first sanction in the last 12-month period.
His frustration stemmed from Wolff’s comments immediately after the race, where the Mercedes boss claimed that the fifth win of the season for Hamilton was partly overshadowed by Bottas’ finish.
"It feels a bit bittersweet, I don't know why, because Valtteri would have deserved a podium because he was such a sensational wingman,” Wolff had said.
With Bottas now 81 points behind Hamilton – more than three race victories – and nine grand prix remaining, he accepted that he may now have to play second-fiddle to Hamilton as he bids to win a fifth world championship. But those talks will be had with the team, with Bottas still technically able to challenge for the title even though he is fourth in the drivers’ standings behind Kimi Raikkonen.
"I think we need to speak after this race," he added. "We are over halfway [through] the year and the points gap is big, but for sure the team will decide at some point."
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