Following the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton has hailed Mercedes teammate and rival Valtteri Bottas as the ‘most honorable’ driver he has raced against in his career.
It was a team decision in the end with Toto Wolff taking the call to switch Bottas and Hamilton at Sochi with the British driver picking up another win to extend his lead to 50 points with only five races remaining from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Bottas took pole on Saturday when Hamilton made a mistake on his second flying lap. The Finn ran well in the race as well to lead with Hamilton having to defend hard from Vettel. He even lost out to him during the pit stop.
However, an aggressive move helped him to regain the position but the German stayed on his tail for the rest of the race until Mercedes decided to help Hamilton with team orders. The sequence suggested that the order wasn’t discussed pre-race.
And so, Bottas was heard on the radio if he would be allowed back into the lead position. But Mercedes maintained the order much to the disappointment of Bottas and also Hamilton who had heaps of praise for what the Finn did.
“Firstly Valtteri, if you look up in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of him, he’s honestly one of the most honorable – probably the most honorable driver that I have driven against,” claimed Hamilton after the race.
“It was very difficult because we had a race in Turn 1 which was great. He got a great start and did an amazing job. You saw how happy I was for him [on Saturday]. I really-really appreciate and like my teammate.
“When he does well, I feel like I have got to do a better job and today it was just very conflicting because they told me that ‘he’s going to let you pass’ and I was like ‘no just tell him to speed up’ because I have got Vettel behind me.
“And then 200 meters down the road, he backed off and let me go. It felt horrible and winning has never felt worse, I have to say but I have to put my own emotion aside and think about the team.
“The team came here and we blew Ferrari this weekend with a 1-2. I think that’s an incredible result considering we came here which is not always been our stronger circuit. The team want to win both championships – it wasn’t my decision, it wasn’t Valtteri’s.”
Wolff defended the call post race as they want to win both the titles, adding that if it makes him the bad guy in Russia, he is fine with it as long as he doesn’t look stupid at the end of the season in Abu Dhabi.
For Bottas though, it was a tough pill to take but he held his composure amid huge disappointment of losing out a sure first win. Hamilton also tried to hand him the winning trophy in a fine gesture on the podium.
Title rival Vettel defended Mercedes’ call as well. “They played very well together as a team,” he said. “In their defence, obviously I know that you guys love controversy and therefore ask some naughty questions to them as individuals.
“But I think in the position they were in it was a no-brainer what they did today so maybe not all the questions are justified. For us, obviously we tried our maximum. I think there was a slim chance to finish ahead of Lewis.
“I went through the racing bit this afternoon, so we have to be third and settle with that.” The German himself has been in the shoes of Hamilton, where his teammate whether in Ferrari and or Red Bull Racing has been asked aside.