Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas has admitted that he was “slightly worried” at one stage that he wouldn’t make it to the end in Austria.
A hydraulic issue was affecting the gearboxes in both W11s during the race, prompting the team to order Bottas and Hamilton to avoid the kerbs, saying it was “critical”.
Bottas was able to work through the issue though and crossed the line P1 to win the first race of the 2020 season.
But, the Finn was “slightly worried” that he wasn’t going to be able to enjoy that moment.
“We had to manage the car quite a lot,” he told reporters after the race.
“I couldn’t really use all the kerbs and at some point I was slightly worried if everything would all be okay.
“But I’m glad we managed to finish both cars and I think in the team standings we are leading so that’s a very good start.”
Hamilton had a far more eventful race after he collided with Alex Albon for the second time in three races, sending him into a spin and costing him a podium opportunity just like in Brazil of last year.
The six-time World Champion was handed a five-second time penalty after the incident, but Bottas said he felt the pressure from his team-mate up to that point who was ready to snatch the lead if he made any mistake.
“There was quite a bit of pressure all through the race,” he said.
“There were so many chances for Lewis to get the lead if I make even a small mistake and he was really quick today. But I managed to keep it together and control the race from my side.
“No better way to start the season.”
VALTTERI BOTTAS WINS IN AUSTRIA!
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 5, 2020
In the end, Bottas admitted that he dodged “many bullets” to secure the race win.
“In the first stint Lewis lost a bit of time getting through the Red Bulls, so there was quite a bit of margin,” he explained.
“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 tyres and maintaining the car.
“In the second stint there was never, like, massive pressure, because I was up in front and we wanted to make really sure we made it to the end, but there was all these variables in the race, we had some issues with some sensors, that were damaged by the vibration of the pretty harsh kerbs we have here, so we had to avoid kerbing 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 said it was a fine line for him between keeping Hamilton behind and making sure he kept the W11 going.
“Initially it was a tricky one, because I was watching on the mirrors and I could see Lewis was pushing pretty, pretty hard and still making use of all the track, but obviously you want to prioritize the reliability, so took a couple of laps to try and optimize the new way of driving, avoiding the kerbs,” he said.
“At least, here, the more you go on the kerb the more the vibrations ramp up, so you kind of get a feeling for what’s OK and what’s too much. There were only a few places where you need to take care, so, after one or two laps I kind of got used to it.
“In the end, when I tried for the fastest lap, I think with a couple of laps to go, I still was off the kerbs, so it didn’t feel right. But I had to do it.”