Belgian Grand Prix – Valtteri Bottas says he had to lift off heading into Eau Rouge to avoid hitting the back of Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap.
Lewis Hamilton won the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps with relative ease, with the only particular moment of danger for him coming on the opening lap as Valtteri Bottas lined him up for a pass going down the Kemmel Straight.
However, any chance of a slipstreamed slingshot around Hamilton was foiled when Bottas was forced to back off as Hamilton slowed slightly heading into Eau Rouge. This put Bottas into the clutches of Max Verstappen meaning the Finn was forced to defend rather than attack.
From there, Bottas couldn’t quite match Hamilton and was five seconds behind at the chequered flag.
Asked whether he was quicker than Hamilton at any point during the race, Bottas said: “It’s difficult to say because of course when you are in the lead you can control the pace and you have the free air and when you are behind and if you try to get close, you are always using more of the tyres than the car ahead, so it’s impossible to say whether I was quicker at any point. But I felt in general that the pace for me was good and I think that our car was strong today. As Lewis said, as a team it was a really solid Sunday for us. So, yeah, it was pretty straightforward.”
Explaining what had happened on the opening lap, Bottas said his attack was stymied by having to back off to avoid hitting his teammate: “Out of Turn 1 I felt a better run than Lewis and I really actually had to lift not to run into the back of him and I tried to leave a bit of a gap to get a good momentum off the tow, but today I was surprised how small the tow effect was, maybe with the tailwind into Turn 5 it made a different. Actually, it was the same on the restart. I was hoping to catch him but I just couldn’t.”
Hamilton was asked about the moment, and he denied that there had been any tactic used to slow Bottas – and that the moment was actually a small error: “I had a big snap out of Turn 1 and Valtteri was all over me, and as I had wheelspin, I had a de-rated shift as well, so that wasn’t particularly exciting, so I had to already block, I think, coming out of Turn 1. But the goal is to go in there in the lead and bridge a gap to the car behind – but in this instance, it worked out to my benefit, to be honest, a mistake, well, not a mistake, a snap, it was just the tyres, the way they are. It meant that Valtteri didn’t have a gap behind to slingshot alongside me. That’s definitely the stressful moment of the race.”
Hamilton attributed the change in wind direction as being particularly helpful in defence of the lead, particularly on the restart when he was able to sprint away after the Safety Car: “Then the restart, it’s horrible when you get the Safety Car. I’m glad that everyone’s safe. Controlling at the front and trying to bridge the gap on the restart to the car behind, because that’s another opportunity for them to slipstream you, is not easy. I think today we were lucky because in previous years we’d have had a headwind into Turn 5 and so you’re obviously more draggy and the car behind gets a better tow. This weekend it was a tailwind, so I think that really helped keeping Valtteri behind.”
It’s been an emotional weekend, I want to dedicate this win to Chad and his family, he was such an inspiration and his legacy will live on. I’m posting this image because we must continue to fight for equality, nothing has changed yet and the battle continues. #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/mmpJWtUd2t
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) August 30, 2020