Russian Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton paid tribute to teammate Valtteri Bottas after the Finn relinquished position to him during the race in Sochi.
Bottas, who has gone through the entirety of the 2018 campaign without a race victory, was on course to rectify that at the Sochi Autodrom. At the scene of his debut win at the same venue in 2017, Bottas claimed pole position after a tense qualifying battle with Hamilton before going on to maintain his lead through the opening phase of the race.
With Hamilton being kept under pressure by title rival Sebastian Vettel, which included the Ferrari driver briefly jumping Hamilton through the pitstop before being overtaken on track by Lewis, Mercedes made the call to Bottas to let Hamilton through and take track position. This he did, by easing off the throttle into Turn 13 and, when Max Verstappen pitted at the end of Lap 43, this allowed Hamilton into the lead and Mercedes into a 1-2 finish with Vettel consigned to P3.
“Valtteri was an incredible gentleman today.” explained a subdued but happy Hamilton afterwards.
“Honestly, it’s the strangest day I can remember having in the sport in my career. I remember, we have crossed this situation and discussion before. It’s always felt super uncomfortable, I was like ‘Look, I want to win the right way’, that’s always how it is for me. I would say ‘Look, as racing drivers we exist to win, and if you tell us we can’t win, it’s like you are taking our air away, our life away’. It’s that deep. I would never wish it upon anyone else and would never ask for it, ever. I made sure when we were in a meeting before, I was like ‘Just so you know, I’ve never gone to Toto and those guys, this is not how I want to win’.”
“Obviously, the team took the decision when they saw that my tyres were blistered and Vettel was charging from behind. There are stronger heads in the team who are like ‘We have to win, it’s all about the win. We have got to win both Championships, we don’t care who finishes ahead’. I think ultimately, it’s really important right this second to first acknowledge Valtteri, because as I said he was just the ultimate gentleman. It is very weird to feel down but we’ve also got to feel grateful to the guys back at the factory. So many people are working flat-out to make sure we have a 1-2 like this, the team have just done an incredible job this weekend. We have to really embrace the moment still, but it’s definitely a victory on my list of wins that I am least proud of.”