Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton play down Mercedes' Spanish GP late-race switch request
"I honestly didn't know he had a message so in my mind I was like we're racing. Valtteri was completely fair. I hope I didn't lose him too much time," says Lewis Hamilton, while Bottas says he was also focusing on his own race
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 10/05/21 7:50am
Valtteri Bottas admitted he could have let a victory-chasing Lewis Hamilton by sooner in the Spanish GP but says he was also focusing on his own race prospects.
Hamilton, meanwhile, described themselves "the best team-mates" and thought he would be racing Bottas for position in any case as part of his late charge back from third to first at Barcelona.
With Mercedes rolling the strategy dice in a bid to beat Red Bull's Max Verstappen to the win by pitting second-placed Hamilton for a second time with 24 laps of the race to go, the Englishman returned to the track in third place behind Bottas.
Hamilton soon arrived on the sister Mercedes' tail and Bottas was told by his race engineer not to hold his team-mate up. But the Finn did not appear to make it especially easy for the Briton to overtake him, with Hamilton ultimately passing on a tighter line into Turn 10.
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Hamilton had been 1.3s faster than Verstappen on the lap before he caught Bottas but dropped 0.3s to the Red Bull on the tour in which he followed his team-mate. In the end, the lost time proved academic as he caught and easily passed Verstappen with six laps remaining.
"I definitely could have let him by earlier, but I was doing my own race as well," Bottas told Sky Sports F1 afterwards.
"It's always calculating things. I was trying to get Charles (Leclerc) off the pit window so I could stop again and try to go for an extra point [with the fastest lap]. So the main thing in my mind was my own race.
"They told me not to hold me up too much but, like I said, I was also doing my race. I'm not here to let people by, I'm here to race, so that's how it goes."
Speaking in the press conference, Bottas said: "It's about balancing things. Of course, as a racing driver you prioritise yourself and your race, but also we work as a team and you don't want to ruin that for the team if it's possible and it's not for you. I think in the end it was kind of OK."
For his part, Hamilton said he had no issue with what happened.
"We're the best team-mates," he said.
"I honestly didn't know he had a message so in my mind I was like we're racing. Valtteri was completely fair. I hope I didn't lose him too much time.
"This is how we win as a team. We are sometimes in the position where we have got to put the team first. Getting a second and a third is good but getting a first is the most points and that is key."
Team boss Toto Wolff was also comfortable with how events unfolded, although acknowledged he may have felt differently had Hamilton not ultimately overhauled Verstappen in the final laps.
"Racing drivers' instincts are what they are," admitted Wolff. "I would have wished that, maybe because Lewis was on a totally different strategy he would have drove past a bit quicker, but at the end we scored the result.
"I can relate to Valtteri. He had a tough day again and you're annoyed. If it would have lost us the race I would have been more critical, but at the end it's something we can learn off. It goes both directions and this is what we will be discussing, but in a very camaraderie-like way."