Christian Horner has all but thanked Valtteri Bottas for not holding up Max Verstappen in Russia, saying the Finn was “very fair” with the Red Bull driver.
With it known that Verstappen would be starting the Russian Grand Prix from the very back of the grid, the Red Bull driver have incurred an engine penalty, Mercedes opted to change Bottas’ engine for “tactical” reasons.
Those tactical reasons, at least it was thought at the time, were with one aim in mind, holding up Verstappen’s chances of recovery.
Bottas, though, did everything but.
Although he started P16 to Verstappen’s P20, the Dutchman was quickly on his rear wing and on lap 6 made the pass, doing so without fight from Bottas.
Horner appreciated that.
“Valtteri was very fair with Max, he didn’t lose much time when he overtook him. That was an important move in the race,” he said as per formel1.de.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 28, 2021
As for Bottas’ engine penalty, the Red Bull team boss said he didn’t “know the reasons why Mercedes decided to make the tactical change.”
Helmut Marko, though, believes it was done for one reason, and one reason alone.
“We have read that it is called a tactical move,” said the team’s motorsport advisor to ORF. “Anyone who thinks a little bit can interpret it as they want.”
Mercedes motorsport Toto Wolff says that’s “nonsense”.
He added: “I would be happy if it had been tactical, because then we would have saved an engine.”
Bottas, who recovered to P5 on the day while Verstappen was second, later confirmed that his engine change was not done to hold up Verstappen, it was because he needed to take a fifth engine as his Monza PU 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.”
Tale of two halves for Red Bull at Sochi
The Red Bull drivers had very different weekends at the Russian Grand Prix.