Valtteri Bottas admits it hurts to be called “a sensational wingman” by team principal Toto Wolff after helping teammate Lewis Hamilton win the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s biggest threat appeared to be Sebastian Vettel — with the Ferrari on a different strategy having started on soft tires — but a slow pit stop saw the German emerge in third place behind Bottas. With Vettel on ultrasofts and Bottas on old soft tires from an early pit stop in response to Kimi Raikkonen, Mercedes left Bottas out and Vettel was unable to overtake.
But Vettel tried with five laps to go. As Bottas struggled with the rear tires, Vettel attacked and appeared to cleanly get ahead on the exit of Turn 1. But Bottas, not willing to give up, tried to get his nose down the inside of Turn 2, hitting the rear of the Ferrari and breaking his own front wing. After he lost a Kimi Raikkonen drove past for third, Bottas made additional contact with Daniel Ricciardo as the Red Bull tried to overtake around the outside of Turn 1 two laps later and lost the spot.
Eventually, Bottas ran out of tires and slipped to fifth place at the flag, with Wolff praising his drive.
“We came here with a damage limitation motto and we came away with more points than the competition,” Wolff told Sky Sports. “It’s a great win for Lewis but it feels a little bit bittersweet, I don’t know why, because Valtteri would have deserved a podium, because he was such a sensational wingman.”
When the comments were put to Bottas, he replied: “Well, first of all ‘wingman’ hurts.
“Second of all I don’t see any positives for me. We thought we should have been able to do that one-stop. We had to stop earlier than we wanted because of Kimi, we had to cover him.
“Still 20 laps from the end everything was feeling OK, I had good control of the pace and my position. But then the rear tires started to die. I tried to defend best I could, as aggressive as I could, but it all ended up being a bit of a mess in the end with a broken front wing and everything.”
While unhappy with the comment, Bottas acknowledges Mercedes is likely to tell him he is supporting Hamilton’s title challenge soon after dropping 81 points behind his teammate in the drivers’ standings.
“I think we need to speak after this race. We are over halfway of the year. The points gap is big so I’m sure the team will decide at some point.”