Valtteri Bottas has denied suggestions that he will be forced to support Lewis Hamilton’s title bid against Sebastian Vettel after being ordered to stick behind his teammate last time out at the German Grand Prix.
Following the late Safety Car period at the Hockenheimring, Bottas was able to challenge Hamilton to win, benefiting from his freshyer tyres. Hamilton managed to fend Bottas off with the pair going side by side through most of the middle sector.
Bottas was then ordered by Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles to hold position: “Valtteri, it’s James. Please hold position. I’m sorry.”
When asked whether he’s still allowed to race his teammate in the second half of 2018, Bottas said: “I do believe we are still allowed to race freely. Obviously it always is case by case but there’s no plan in place at the moment for me being at all in a support role. We are still on equal terms and that’s the plan for now.
“Hopefully, it’ll continue until the end of the year. Back to what happened, I think with all the difficult races we had in the triple-header, we lost so many points with different causes so I kind of get the team’s position after lap one [after the late Safety Car period] we were side by side a couple of times and they wanted to get those points. I am very confident they would have done the same if I was at the lead at that point. That’s how it is.”
Mercedes used team orders at last season’s Hungarian Grand Prix. In that case, Bottas let Hamilton through so he could attack the leading Ferraris but was required to give back the position, which he did after being unable to make an overtake.
The Finn, who hasn’t won a race since Abu Dhabi last season, says each situation will be decided on a ”case by case” basis and he reaffirms that he still has equal treatment within the team.
”Like I said I think it really goes case by case,” Bottas added. ”It’s not guaranteed or completely identical situations can happen again, who knows. Every situation is treated by the situation but there’s been no decisions or anything like that made that I would be in a different role than Lewis.
”We are still both trying to collect maximum points, trying to always win the race, we always have equal chance for that so one way or another if me and Lewis end up in a similar situation then it’s up to the team. We are on equal terms and I am still allowed to try and catch him in the points.