Valtteri Bottas says his own race hadn’t been sacrificed by the need to act as Lewis Hamilton’s loyal ‘wingman’ in the Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on Sunday.
Bottas started from fourth place on the grid but lost a position at the start to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, which proved the start of a race-long feud between the two drivers.
The Finn stayed out longer than the other leaders, and he was then used to help bottle up Kimi Raikkonen in a bid to help his team mate Lewis Hamilton.
“First my mission was to hold up Kimi for a while, but then to end up on the podium,” he said after the race. “I was really trying to do everything I can to get to the podium.
“It’s good to be back on the podium, it’s been a tough period of races,” he said. The last time he finished in the top three was in Germany before the summer break.
The team strategy meant that he ended up losing further time to Verstappen, and came back out behind the Red Bull after his delayed pit stop. “It wasn’t an easy race for me today,” he admitted.
However Bottas revealed that the winning tactics had been discussed and agreed upon even before the start of the race.
“When we went through everything, all the scenarios for the race, we saw that with me starting fourth and Lewis from third behind the Ferrari, there was no point for us to try and opt for the optimal strategy, and saw an opportunity for me to go long,” he explained.
“I wouldn’t call it sacrificing my race, because the pit window here is so big with the tyres we had this weekend.
“We opted to go for a very long first stint because the tyres were holding on well,” he insisted. “It was good for me to have fresh tyres to attack in the end
“It was good for me, but it was also good for Lewis that I could keep Kimi behind and slow him down a bit,” he said. “I think we did good team work today.”
Even though he was on fresher tyres he found it almost impossible to get around the Dutch driver. He finally looked to have a chance to use DRS into turn 1 only to end up clipping the back of the Red Bull and ended up having to take to the escape road.
“In the end I still had a chance Verstappen to attack with the fresh tyres which was quite interesting,” he continued. “It was hard racing. Some times not as fair as I was hoping for.
“I think there were a couple of proper overtaking opportunities for me,” he recalled. “First time I tried I think he cut the chicane. The second time I was going on the outside as he was defending the inside.
“There’s a very clear rule that says you need to leave a car’s width on the outside but he didn’t, so we touched.
“If a car is there you need to leave room for that car and he didn’t, that’s why we touched because he moved and it was a very clear move.”
Sure enough, the incident was investigated by the race stewards who decided that Verstappen had caused the collision by moving under braking. The five-second time penalty meant that Bottas got his third place after all, with Sebastian Vettel also promoted to fourth ahead of Verstappen in the final results.
“He got a penalty for that, which for me is fair enough,” he noted. “He got a penalty, and I’m on the podium,”
“I think as a team we will take this result,” he continued. We got more points than Ferrari at their home.
“Obviously they were quicker yesterday in the qualifying but we’ll take it and hopefully do better at the next round.”
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