Valtteri Bottas acknowledged having “mixed feelings” after his victory in the United States Grand Prix, in which he beat Lewis Hamilton in a straight fight but saw his slim world championship hopes extinguished.
The Finn had to win to have any chance of keeping the title fight alive heading into the penultimate round in Brazil, and duly pulled off a two-stop strategy, overtaking Hamilton with five laps remaining to secure victory. With Hamilton finishing second his teammate secured a sixth drivers’ title, and Bottas says it took a little bit of the shine off his result.
“Coming into this weekend, winning was the only thing I could do to try and maintain the title hopes and delay the decision,” Bottas said. “I did my part, which feels good, but Lewis was strong this weekend, as he always is — he got some good points and the championship.
“Quite mixed feelings, really. The whole weekend was strong but, on the other hand, I felt this year that being best of the rest, it doesn’t feel good. You always need to look at the positives as well and this was my best season in Formula 1 so far, so that’s good. There were other positives as well — I made huge gains in many areas, like race pace and everything.
“Lewis wanted to win the title by winning the race — I could stop that and that feels good, obviously. But I just look forward to next year — it’s a new opportunity.”
Focusing on the race itself, Bottas says Max Verstappen’s strategy opened the door for Hamilton to try something different, but that turned into a challenge he relished.
“It was not an easy race. I had a good start, the first stint went as planned and for me the Plan A was to do one stop, but Max pitted quite early, moved to two stops and I had to try and cover him, so I went for two stops as well. Lewis stayed out long and try to do it with one stop.
“At one point I was actually worried his strategy was going to be a better one but all I could do was focus my every single lap, single corner, trying to perfect everything, trying to minimize the losses and maximize all the possible gains and then it was all about seeing where we would be at the end of the race.
“My pace was good today and at the end I could catch Lewis and have some good fighting with him on track, which I enjoyed. It was a good feeling to get ahead and win the race like that. It feels good when it doesn’t come easy.”