Team orders are quite common when it comes to Formula 1, and it has been a noticeable factor since Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher-Rubens Barrichello era. But, the latest pair to cause such a resemblance is Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
Who could forget the 2018 Russian Grand Prix? To the ones wondering what happened, here’s a bit of a backstory. Bottas clinched the pole position, had a brilliant start to the race, and held onto his position until lap 26. It was a very clinical performance from the Finn. But, then things turned quite controversial.
Bottas’ radio turned up, and it was his race engineer who demanded that he must give up the lead to Hamilton, as the Briton, with a win, would extend his championship lead to Sebastian Vettel.
And of course, what could Bottas do? Having spent just over a year with the team, there was no way Bottas was going to turn down the order. Hence, he paved the way for Hamilton to take the lead and clinch the victory as well while Bottas stood absolutely dejected on the podium.
One might think, Bottas would have moved on from the incident by now. But, here’s the truth – he’s not. Moreover, he reckoned that the 2018 Sochi incident was indeed the point where his attacking mindset took a hefty blow, and it never returned to normalcy.
Speaking to Tom Clarkson in the Beyond the Grid podcast, Bottas opened up that Sochi 2018 was when he realized he was never going to challenge for the big trophy, rather play a mere wingman to Hamilton.
“Yeah, it was tough, you know? Obviously, I made the decision. I did it although it was like… I don’t know what the description’s like – Biting my own teeth together and did not feel natural and right because I’m a racer. But, I did it for the team,” he said.
“But, I also think that at that moment, I lost a certain sense of… Everything just became a bit more trickier after that for the rest of the season because I realized that ‘ok, my role is now basically just helping’. And I couldn’t really digest that. And then yeah, I don’t think I was in the right mindset for the rest of the year.”
Overall, Mercedes were indeed quite harsh and cruel to Bottas in Russia. It almost looked like the team were ready to wreck Bottas‘ confidence in exchange for a safe place for Hamilton in the championship fight. But, let’s hear it from you – Do you think the team order in Sochi was a fair play?