Valtteri Bottas has denied taking a new engine in Russia to hold up Max Verstappen, saying it “had” to be done as his Monza PU was “gone”.
With Max Verstappen taking an engine penalty at the Russian Grand Prix, Red Bull putting their title hopeful onto his fourth Honda engine of the season, there was speculation that Mercedes would do the same for Lewis Hamilton.
Instead they surprised the paddock when it was announced that yes there would be a driver taking an engine penalty on Sunday, but that the driver was Bottas, not Hamilton.
Despite taking a new engine at the previous race, the Italian Grand Prix, Mercedes opted to put him onto a new hybrid system, his fifth of the season, at Sochi.
The team announced that it had “taken the tactical opportunity to add another PU into VB’s pool for the remainder of the season.”
That led to speculation that one part of the “tactical” strategy was to drop the Finn to the back of the grid with the aim of him holding up Verstappen’s recovery.
Bottas says that’s not true, he needed to take a fifth engine as his Monza one was “gone”.
“It was purely because we had to otherwise it was too big risk not to finish the race,” he said as per The Race.
“We’ve had quite a few issues and it’s obviously becoming a bit of a problem.
“I think I have this one [in the pool], then one very old one.”
A great move from Verstappen on Bottas
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 26, 2021
As it happens Bottas wasn’t able to hold up the charging Verstappen, the Red Bull driver slicing his way past as they raced down the back straight on lap six.
While Verstappen would recover from P20 to P2, Bottas went from 17th to fifth.
“He [Verstappen] was just able to really come through the field and I don’t know, I need to have a look at anything more I could have done, but he passed me pretty easily and he could then overtake the cars ahead of me and I had no chance to,” conceded the Finn.
Bottas also put part of the blame for his failure to reach the podium on Mercedes, saying the team told him to stay out a lap too long when the rain came down late in the race.
“I tried to come in one lap earlier [for intermediates], but the team wasn’t ready, but at least I was still one of the early ones to stop and it kind of saved our day at least to get some points and get more points than Red Bull,” he said.
“I said ‘I would like to stop, can I come in?’ exiting Turn 15. They said, ‘stay out, stay out’.
“Might have been a podium [if he had been able to pit]. But still, could have been worse.”
Mercedes win but concerning signs at Sochi
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