Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas was gracious in defeat at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday, even though there were many onlookers who argued he was denied a rightful victory by his own team.
Bottas complied with orders and moved aside to let teammate Lewis Hamilton drive away to take the top honours.
While the Englishman later called his teammate “a gentleman” by his actions and ruefully celebrated his victory on the podium by offering Bottas the chance to hold his trophy, the 29-year-old Finn was left to consider what might have been.
It could have been back-to-back victories at the Russian GP for the Finn, who had his maiden victory at the Sochi Autodrome last year and was in pole position after qualifying on Saturday, with Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel behind him.
He led most of first part of the race – which was marred by a near collision between Hamilton and long-time rival Vettel – before there was an ominous message from his race engineer Tony Ross as they reached lap 25.
“You need to let Lewis by into turn 13 this lap,” he said by radio.
The reason given was that Hamilton appeared to have a blister on his tyre that might jeopardise his chances.
Bottas dutifully allowed Hamilton to pass, and his race to the chequered flag was almost assured.
The Finn finished second, with Vettel third.
With three consecutive wins, Hamilton now leads the championship race by 50 points over the German.
Mercedes owner Toto Wolff was subdued as he offered commiserations to Bottas at the race’s end: “Difficult day for you, and a difficult day for us. Let’s discuss it afterwards – it’s quite complicated.”
Twitter was ablaze with angry comments about the Mercedes team decision, with some fans complaining that Hamilton has never had to do the same for one of his team.
There were those who speculated that a post-race photo showed Bottas inspecting Hamilton's tyres for the mentioned blister.
Others, however, accepted that it was a strategic move with the championship title still hanging in the balance
Bottas smiled on the podium as he congratulated Hamilton, but his feelings of disappointment were apparent.
He pointedly did not accept the trophy from his teammate even as he joined in his celebration.
He is probably holding out to win his own fair and square.News Now - Sport News