Two-time Formula 1 champion Mika Hakkinen has come out in full support of his fellow countryman Valtteri Bottas after the Mercedes team orders saga in the 2018 German Grand Prix.
The German manufacturer secured a 1-2 with Lewis Hamilton winning the race from 14th after title rival Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel’s late crash. At one point, both the Mercedes were on the verge of having a wheel-to-wheel battle for the race win.
But the team management were quick to radio Bottas and ask him to hold station so as to help Hamilton win the race and re-take the championship lead after Vettel’s failure. Surprisingly, the Finn didn’t question the move and accepted second place.
This resulted in Bottas being tagged as the ‘official Number 2′ driver, but post-race Mercedes defended the team call and added that if Bottas was in the lead, they would have done the same for the Finn.
Hakkinen, while lauding Bottas’ professionalism and calling him a ‘diamond’ in the team’s set-up, said that he may not have done the same if the team had asked him to. “Lewis knew that getting into the Top 10 was one target, then the Top 8 and finally the Top 6.
“But that’s the point at which things become more difficult. When you get into the Top 6 you know that all the cars in front of you are just as quick, so then you need a little bit more help.
“Ferrari lost momentum when their cars got out of position during the pit stops – they had to ask Kimi Raikkonen to let Sebastian through – and then Valtteri Bottas had a late first pitstop and a slow second pit stop.
“All this helped Lewis, and he was ready to grab every opportunity. Personally, I think Valtteri did an amazing job, particularly after the Safety Car came in. He attacked Lewis perfectly, had a faster car at that moment and knew that the win was possible.
“Then came the instruction from the team to hold 2nd place and get the 1-2 finish for the Mercedes. I am not sure I could have accepted that, but once again Valtteri showed that he is very mature, a real team player and therefore able to take the long-term view.
“I have not known many drivers who are quick enough to qualify on pole position, win races and then also accept team orders with the same degree of professionalism. He is a diamond in that team, plus a mega-fast driver who just keeps developing and improving.
“All of these aspects will have contributed to Mercedes’ decision to renew his contract for another two years, and I expect we are going to see some outstanding performances from him during that time.”
For some years now, Raikkonen has been said to be the ‘Number 2’ driver which Ferrari and even Vettel have denied. However, this year things have played out differently as the Italian manufacturer hasn’t orchestrated any move.
Even when both were on different strategies at Hockenheim, Ferrari took their time and went through all the data to tell Raikkonen to move away for Vettel. Eventually, senior team personnel Jock Clear delivered the radio message.
Still, it wasn’t the straight on ‘move away’ style they have used earlier but instead they used the technical language to ask him to give the position. Raikkonen, on the other hand, felt a simple call to let him pass was enough in that moment.
With Vettel’s crash, the headlines changed all-together and Ferrari’s team orders wasn’t the talking point hugely. Like everyone else, Hakkinen also felt Vettel made a huge mistake and the one which could cost him the title.
However, the Finn reckons it will not be difficult for the German to recover considering Ferrari has a quick car and the ability to win races. “Everybody makes mistakes, but Sebastian Vettel’s mistake in the German Grand Prix on Sunday was a big one.
“I am not surprised that he felt awful. This was his chance to win a Grand Prix in Hockenheim for the first time, in front of his home crowd, and to extend his lead in the World Championship.
“Part of being a world class driver is avoiding mistakes, particularly in difficult conditions. On the other hand, when you are leading a Grand Prix it is very often the case that you are the first person to experience the conditions and, of course, you are normally slightly faster than everyone else too.
“You are on your own, maybe receiving some advice or instructions from the team, but I believe you also have a great chance of making mistakes whenever the conditions change. I don’t feel sorry for him, but in difficult conditions it is easy to make a mistake at the ‘Sachs Kurve’ corner where Sebastian crashed.
“You have to be careful to brake where the circuit is flat and to release the brake before the change in camber makes it possible to lock the wheels. When Sebastian went off you could see there was nothing he could do; the brakes were not slowing him down, he was just a passenger.”