Toto Wolff says his use of the word “wingman” to describe Valtteri Bottas in the Hungarian Grand Prix — a comment that Bottas said “hurts” — was taken the wrong way and doesn’t relate to his position in the team.
Bottas was running second to teammate Lewis Hamilton but had stopped early in the race to cover Kimi Raikkonen, leaving him vulnerable to Sebastian Vettel who was on a different strategy. With Vettel suffering a slow pit stop and emerging behind Bottas with 30 laps remaining, Mercedes opted to leave the Finn out on old tires despite Raikkonen having pit for a second time.
Bottas, who damaged his front wing trying to prevent Vettel from overtaking him with five laps to go, faded to fifth, and after the race said it hurt when Wolff described him as “a sensational wingman” for his drive.
“That’s exactly why things that are not being discussed directly face to face are being completely spun out of control in a wrong way,” Wolff said in response to Bottas’ comments. “In the race, starting P2 after lap one, Valtteri’s race was the perfect wingman’s race.
“I don’t mean it in championship terms, we have no number one and number two, but it was just how he was racing, was from my standpoint the best race so far with Valtteri at Mercedes in the last three years.
“The bittersweet feeling I have is he would have deserved to have finished P2. It was where he started and where he was after lap one but as you say, maybe the word wingman doesn’t do him justice. He drove a sensational race and helped Lewis in a way to build a lead. But Lewis on the other side drove a faultless spectacular race as well.”
Bottas himself took to Twitter after the race to state he had not understood Wolff’s comments correctly in the immediate disappointment of the race.
“I have not called a meeting with the bosses for Toto saying I was the perfect wingman in this race,” Bottas wrote. “There is no need to. I was disappointed with my end result in the race and saw everything in a negative way for a moment. I know what he meant and he would have said the same about Lewis if he’d been in the same situation and had a similar race.
“We are on equal terms and I trust the team 100% on that. All good. We’ll keep pushing! It’ll come.”
And Wolff also defended Bottas for the two collisions he was involved in as he fell through the field in the closing stages. After first running into the back of Vettel, Bottas then understeered into the side of Daniel Ricciardo, and received a 10-second time penalty for the second incident.
“The tire was completely shot. We were surprised how he managed to hold Sebastian and Kimi behind him for 25 or so laps and we knew the last five laps would be critical. Sebastian made a good move into Turn 1 on the inside, there was no traction on Valtteri’s car any more, he stayed on the inside, on the dirty line, braked late, there was also no where to go. A complete race incident.
“The second one the same. The second one looked a bit harsh when you look at the pictures, but considering he was on the dirty line and the tire was shot and the car was damaged on the front wing, there was no where to go. Daniel on the outside, didn’t know that Valtteri’s car was not in perfect state any more, and this is how they collided. Nothing on purpose.”