Valtteri Bottas believes that his collisions with Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo were just racing incidents, with the initial Vettel incident happening because “the rear tyres started to die“.
Bottas got off to a reasonable start at the Hungarian Grand Prix, starting from and settling into second place behind team-mate Lewis Hamilton. From there he quickly became the rear gunner for Hamilton, fending off Vettel behind and covering the German’s team-mate Kimi Räikkönen when he made an unexpectedly early pit stop.
Whilst it looked like Scuderia Ferrari‘s plan to get Bottas out of the picture may have worked, a slow pit stop for Vettel saw the German emerge from the pits behind the Finn’s silver arrow, and probing overtaking attempts quickly resulted in an overheating car for Vettel, causing him to drop back.
Things started to heat up as the race wore on though and, by the start of the final ten laps, Vettel looked like he could finally make a move on Bottas. Lap sixty-five saw this happen – the German getting the cut-back through turn one and attempting a move around the outside of turn two, squeezing Bottas in the process. As the pair ran towards the second turn, Bottas locked a front wheel – careering straight into the back of Vettel and damaging his own front wing in the process. He slipped down to fourth, though looked like he might be in trouble from Ricciardo behind.
Just three laps later Ricciardo was behind Bottas, and the Australian was making an overtaking manoeuvre around the outside of the first turn.
Unfortunately for both parties the missing parts of Bottas’ damaged front wing did nothing to slow him down, and Bottas understeered directly into the side of Ricciardo’s car – damaging the Red Bull machine as well as causing further damage to the Mercedes. Despite the clear contact Bottas carried on regardless, thinking it was a racing incident.
Stewards saw things slightly differently, though. Whilst the contact with Vettel was deemed a racing incident, the collision with Ricciardo was not, and Bottas picked up a ten-second penalty for causing a collision. This ultimately had very little effect on the final result though, as Ricciardo had passed Bottas by the time the flag fell and sixth-placed man Pierre Gasly was nowhere near the ten second margin by the time he crossed the line.
Speaking after the race Bottas said it was “a shame” that he couldn’t have stayed in second, though said he was looking forward to the summer break.
“It’s a shame that I ended up in [fifth]; we wanted more today and it would have been great to go into the summer break with a 1-2 finish.
“I was trying everything I could but the stint on the Soft tyres was just too long. In theory, a one-stop strategy should have worked but we had to stop earlier than we had planned to cover Kimi who pitted in the lap before me.
“Until about 15 or 20 laps before the end our plan worked out well, we controlled the pace and there was no threat to my position. But then the rear tyres started to die.
“Towards the end of the race, I had an incident with Sebastian going into Turn 2 – he was on the outside, I still had my nose inside. He turned in early, there was nowhere to go for me, so we touched and I had damage to my front wing. For me it was a racing incident – and so was the incident with Daniel. Again, I was on the inside, he was on the outside. Half of my front wing was missing at that time, I was locking up, and we touched.
“Now I’m looking forward to the next weeks, a bit of a break will be good, and then I want to come back stronger.“