Valtteri Bottas says he had a variety of challenges to overcome to take victory in the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix. The Finn held off teammate Lewis Hamilton and also had to deal with reliability concerns.
Starting from pole position, Bottas built up a comfortable lead in the first stint of the race as Hamilton was forced to climb through the field from fifth due to a late grid penalty. Multiple safety car periods erased the Finn’s lead, but he ensured Hamilton never got close enough to mount a serious overtaking attempt.
“Winning a Formula 1 grand prix is never easy, but today didn’t definitively come easy at all,” Bottas said. “In the first stint Lewis lost a bit of time getting through the Red Bulls, so there was quite a bit of margin. So, the first stint was not that bad because I had a decent gap — I could control and make sure we’d make it to the target stop lap. I tried to do the right thing with the tires and maintaining the car.
“In the second stint there was never massive pressure, because I was up in front and we wanted to make really sure we made it to the end, but there were all these variables in the race. We had some issues with sensors that were damaged by the vibration of the pretty harsh curbs we have here, so we had to avoid curbing — which obviously costs you quite a bit of lap time.
“And when you are in the lead, getting one safety car after another… In the end I was, like, ‘again?’, because when you are in the lead you just want things to be constant and trouble-free. There were many variables, I managed to dodge many bullets today and get the win.”
Bottas had to deal with three safety car periods in total, but after the final one Hamilton was involved in a collision with Alex Albon that earned the defending champion a five-second time penalty. As he was unable to find a way past Bottas in the final few laps, Hamilton ended up being demoted to fourth place due to Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris finishing close behind, but Bottas said he couldn’t get too distracted trying to help the second car pull clear.
“I got the message about the five-second penalty, but there was a double yellow flag, so you have to slow down quite a bit — I feel like some drivers slowed down a bit less, so they could catch up.
“At that time we were still not using the curbs, so I tried to find the best compromise between making sure I would get to the flag, not risking too much, but I also tried to go as fast as I could within those limits. It’s not really my fault that he got the five-second penalty.
“In racing you can sometimes get into these situations and you have to deal with them. I was just trying to calculate the risk — I really wanted to win the race but I was also thinking about the points for the team. With the circumstances, with the reliability concerns and issues we had, obviously you don’t want to take too many risks.
“If I would have tried to find a few tenths every lap by hammering the curbs then I could get a DNF in the last lap and that definitely wouldn’t be ideal. I just tried to do the best I could, really, and there wasn’t a discussion that I know of to swap positions. I wouldn’t think there were any discussions.”