Bottas and Wolff clarify "wingman" comments


Speaking in the moments following the Hungarian Grand Prix, paying tribute to Valtteri Bottas, who had fought a long, late duel with Sebastian Vettel which allowed teammate Lewis Hamilton to build a comfortable lead, team boss Toto Wolff described the Finn's performance as that of a "sensational wingman".

The term was helpfully passed on to the Finn by a helpful Sky Sports presenter, and it's fair to say the driver wasn't happy.

"First of all, wingman hurts," said the Finn. "Secondly, I don't see any positives in this race for me.

"I wanted a better result, we should have been able to do one stop," he continued, "but we had to stop earlier than we wanted because of Kimi, we had to cover him. And twenty laps before the end, I was feeling OK, we could control the pace and position, but then the rear tyres started to die.

"I tried to defend the best I could, as aggressive as I could, but it ended up being a bit of a mess in the end with a broken front wing and everything.

Asked if "wingman is what you have to accept, driving for Mercedes", he replied: "I think we need to speak after this race, we are over halfway of the year and the points gap is big, so for sure the team will decide at some point."

His day made even worse by a subsequent time penalty for his clash with Daniel Ricciardo, Bottas later took to Twitter to clarify his post-race comments.

"Some out of context news around..." he tweeted. "I have not called a meeting with the bosses for Toto saying I was the perfect wingman in this race. There is no need to. I was disappointed with my end result in the race and saw everything in a negative way for a moment. I know what he ment (sic).

"And he would have said the same about Lewis if he’d be in same situation and had a similar race. We are on equal terms and I trust the team 100% on that. All good. We’ll keep pushing! It’ll come."

Meanwhile, Wolff also sought to clarify his comment.

"That's exactly why things that are not being discussed directly face-to-face are being completely spun out of control in the wrong way," said the Austrian. "In today's race, starting P2, after lap one, Valtteri's race was the perfect wingman race, and I don't mean it in championship terms, because we have no number one, we have no number two, but it was just how he was racing.

"It was, from my standpoint, the best race so far with Mercedes in the last three years," he added.

"I don't know how much length the tyre was on but I guess it was around 50 – 54 laps," he said of Bottas following his early stop in reaction to Kimi Raikkonen's early stop, "the tyre was completely shot. We were surprised he managed to hold Sebastian and Kimi behind for 25 or so laps and we knew the last five laps would be really critical.

"The bittersweet feeling I have is that he would have deserved to finish P2, where he has started and where he was after lap one.

"But, are you saying maybe the word 'wing man' doesn't do him justice? He just drove a sensational race and helped Lewis, in a way, to build the lead."

Nonetheless, the "wingman" comment comes just a week after Bottas was firmly told by strategist James Vowles to "hold station" behind Hamilton in Germany, even though the Finn was quicker and on fresher rubber.

Check out our Sunday gallery from the Hungaroring, here.

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Published: 29/07/2018
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