Merc ‘strategy calls were two different scenarios’

Michelle Foster
Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas says Mercedes denying him a different tyre choice to Lewis Hamilton in Portugal was “different” to allowing Hamilton a long first stint at Imola.

Last time out at the Portuguese Grand Prix, Bottas ran second behind Hamilton with no sign of being able to challenge his team-mate for the win.

Bottas asked Mercedes for a bit of help, wanting a different tyre choice to the reigning World Champion.

Mercedes denied his request, putting Bottas on the same tyres and Hamilton racing to the victory 25 seconds ahead of his team-mate.

Fast forward two weeks to Imola and this time it was Hamilton chasing Bottas with the Brit’s having fallen to third at the start, behind both the Finn and Max Verstappen.

Verstappen pitted first, Mercedes called Bottas in immediately to cover the Red Bull driver’s stop and, instead of pitting Hamilton, left him out for a long first stint.

“I’m going to pick up the pace don’t stop me,” Hamilton told Mercedes.

As fate would have it, a Virtual Safety Car, the result of Esteban Ocon’s Renault stopping at Variante Alta, handed Hamilton the perfect opportunity to pit.

He pitted from first, and came out in first, setting the six-time World Champion up for the victory which he duly claimed.

Bottas was quick to rubbish suggestions that Mercedes were stacking the deck in Hamilton’s favour.

“It was two different scenarios, I would say,” he said.

“We went through the plans this morning, what happens if one of us gets under pressure and there’s a possibility that Red Bull could undercut and that was me today, so obviously I had to react.

“It would have been the same case if I was in Lewis’s position that the only thing I wanted to do is to go long and seek the opportunities and it really paid off for Lewis today and if we were the other way round it would have been the same for me.

“Obviously Lewis, he had the pace advantage, I think, honestly, partly, for sure today because of the debris I had but we were pretty strong but two completely different scenarios and actually in Portimao, even though I asked for the soft but I couldn’t achieve the target lap anyway, to get the soft to last until the end.

“The racing intent is good and is working and we are following the rules and it’s completely fair. It’s one of the thing that allows us as a team to actually do the things that we’re doing.”

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While Hamilton clinched the victory on Sunday, Bottas raced his way to second place despite driving a damaged W11 that had picked up debris from a Ferrari.

The result means the Finn is Hamilton’s last rival for the World title.

Hamilton has 282, Bottas has 197.

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