It was a chaotic finish of the Dutch GP at the Mercedes pit wall as Valtteri Bottas briefly snatched the fastest lap – and the bonus point that comes with it - away from teammate Lewis Hamilton. Yet, the Fin, who ended the race third behind homeboy Max Verstappen and Hamilton, declined rumours of disobeying team orders when he faced the media after the race.
“I was pushing hard out there but we committed to the one-stop strategy quite early on, and that needed too much management really and proved tricky. It definitely wasn’t as fast as the two-stop”.
Bottas was brought in for new soft tyres on Lap 67 of 72, but told not to attempt fastest lap – with Mercedes telling him the stop was “precautionary” after the Finn had questioned the move.
“We ended up stopping late in the race for safety as we had the gap behind, and I was starting to get some tyre vibrations,” explained Bottas.
On fresher tyres, Bottas proceeded to set the fastest first two sectors of the race on his next lap, forcing Mercedes’ Chief Strategist James Vowles onto the radio to tell him to “abort” his fastest lap attempt. Nonetheless, the Fin didn’t lift his foot from the gas pedal quick enough.
He obtained the fastest lap thus forcing Hamilton to respond by pitting for softs and reclaiming it on the final lap of the race.
There appeared to be a bit of tension among Mercedes’ men towards the end of the race but both drivers denied it.
“I was pushing on the first lap, Sector 1 and 2 like flat-out and then they started asking me to slow down at the end of the lap.
” Bottas added, “because obviously Lewis needs that one extra point more than me. He's fighting for the world championship in the drivers’, and as a team, we're trying to get the maximum points, so that’s how it is.
“I knew Lewis was going to stop as well, that information I had and I knew that with a decent amount of lifting in the last sector [from me], he will get it, so no drama.”
Hamilton, too, told the media there had been any issues at the team: “It doesn't really matter. If Valtteri had got it, that would have been fine. At the end of the day, we needed to get the fastest lap, as many points as we can as a team, so if Valtteri gets it or I get it, it doesn't really make a huge difference.
“I didn't even know that Valtteri had stopped, I was completely unaware of that. It was my choice to stop, I needed that extra point, so I did. It was fine.”
“It was quite a quiet race for me but as a team, we scored solid points and there’s been an amazing atmosphere here,” concluded Valtteri Bottas.
Indeed, with Sergio Perez starting from the pitlane, the two Mercedes drivers finishing P2 and P3 is a solid result, leading Bottas and Hamilton’s to gain 34 points against Red Bull’s 29. This way, the Silver Arrows move 12 points clear of Red Bull in the constructors’ standings.
“We were lacking a bit of speed here compared to Red Bull but Monza is a completely different circuit so I’m hopeful we can compete there”.