Valtteri Bottas insists he had no complaints being asked to slow down to help teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Singapore Grand Prix.
Hamilton was running second but had seen Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen pit behind him, gaining the undercut — when the car that pits first gains time on the out lap on fresh tires — that meant he was going to drop to fourth place when he stopped. As a result, Mercedes ran long with the championship leader while Bottas had already stopped from fifth, and the Finn was asked to slow his pace by three seconds per lap to give Hamilton a window to exit the pits ahead.
“I already knew it at that point, because there are certain rules we follow,” Bottas said of the radio message from strategist James Vowles. “Always, before the pit stops, the one that qualified better, the one that who is ahead, always gets the priority and he can then choose to either go short or go long — and he chose to go long.
“Obviously, if I had gone flat out I would have undercut him and (Alexander) Albon would have done it too. So, I completely see the point, from the team’s perspective. I know it will be the same if it’s vice versa — and I’ll make sure it will be the same if it’s vice versa.
“I trust it will be, but obviously from the outside it looks pretty bad and from my side, being in that situation, it’s completely against my instincts, to back off not to overtake your teammate. It doesn’t make any sense, but that kind of rule has been there for I don’t know how long, at least since I joined the team. But it’s both ways, it’s not only for Lewis, so it’s OK.”
While he accepted the situation during the race, it came against the backdrop of Bottas being less satisfied with the way qualifying had panned out on Saturday, blaming Hamilton for overtaking him shortly before the start of his final lap in Q3.
“We have clear procedures — I was supposed to be ahead but that didn’t happen. I think there’s maybe something we can learn, if one of us wants to do… I don’t know, it’s still something that is quite tricky.
“We’ll see in the future how it goes, but we have clear rules for that and that didn’t go as planned. Every qualifying is different — sometimes there’s no issue at all to get the tires to work. Actually, sometimes you really want the tow but this is a special track, where you just want as big as gap as possible to the car ahead. There’s not much more I can say about that.”