Valtteri Bottas admits he was expecting Lewis Hamilton to stay ahead of him and win the Russian Grand Prix after relinquishing the lead following a Mercedes team order.
Hamilton was running second behind polesitter Bottas at the halfway stage of the race, but Mercedes told the Finn to move over as the championship leader had Sebastian Vettel close behind him. Bottas duly obliged but on the penultimate lap asked if the positions were going to remain unchanged as he ran in second place with a gap of over three seconds to Vettel, and Mercedes confirmed he would not be given the place back.
“Obviously, I let Lewis by so I wanted to make sure what the plan was,” Bottas said. “And I got the confirmation we were going to go to the end like that and that was it.
“I could expect that because, obviously, Lewis is fighting for the championship and I’m not. The way we finished, compared to the positions we had at the beginning of the race, makes no difference for the constructors’ points, so I was expecting that.”
Having taken pole position and led the first part of the race, Bottas says finishing second to Hamilton was the better result for the team even if he wasn’t happy to give up the lead.
“No matter who would win, Lewis or me, as long as we finished one-two we would get maximum points as a team, so it doesn’t make a difference. The difference is that Lewis is fighting for the drivers’ championship and I’m not, so, from the team’s point of view it was the ideal result today. Maybe not ideal for me, but for the team it was.”
The fact that Bottas asked whether the positions would be switched back suggested the scenario had not been fully discussed pre-race, but the Finn would not be drawn on Mercedes’ talks.
“For sure we always go through all the scenarios, all the facts. Lewis is fighting for the championship, we’re fighting for the constructors’ championship, we always have a plan but today…. It’s always difficult to predict what is going to happen in the race, how it’s going to go, but it is what it is.
“Honestly, I don’t want to talk about what we speak inside the team before the race — it’s between us. But it was a little bit of a confusing situation. Still, it’s our own thing what we discuss inside.”