Former Formula 1 Champion Mika Hakkinen says that Valtteri Bottas should expect to sometimes be asked to put team interests ahead of his own.
Bottas was branded a ‘sensational wingman’ by his boss Toto Wolff after the Finn’s defensive drive against the two Ferraris at the Hungaroring last Sunday. With Bottas running long on the Soft tyres, his positioning meant that the Ferraris couldn’t get after the leading Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel was unable to use his UltraSoft tyres to challenge for the win.
While Bottas initially said he felt ‘hurt’ by the comment, he clarified on Monday that he knew what Wolff meant and that, had positions been different, Lewis Hamilton would have done the same thing.
1998 & 1999 F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen, speaking in his Unibet Finland blog, said that Bottas could expect to occasionally be expected to perform such a role while he builds his reputation at a top team: “Much has been said about the fact that Valtteri would be Hamilton’s “clutch bag”. However, every professional driver knows that sometimes during a race, season or career, he is asked to do the best for the team. It’s a team game.”
“It took seven years before I won a Formula One race for the first time. During that time I had really experienced teammates, such as Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell and Martin Brundle, and the teammates with whom I had about as much experience as Johnny Herbert and David Coulthard. Sometimes they were faster, sometimes they gave their support. For example, last year in Hungary, Lewis gave Valtteri his place back because Lewis knew he had received help.”
Hakkinen was referring to a race in which Bottas had allowed Hamilton through to have a crack at overtaking the leading Ferraris. When Hamilton couldn’t make it happen, he relinquished the third place back to Bottas.
Acknowledging that Bottas could have been a bigger threat in this year’s title fight had things gone a little more smoothly, Hakkinen said: “Valtteri is only halfway through the second season with Mercedes, and in his sixth F1 season. He has already won three races, and without the Azerbaijan puncture before the finish, he would be in a better position in the championship. If only the beginning of the season had gone a little differently…”