Toto Wolff admits asking Valtteri Bottas to move aside to allow Lewis Hamilton to win the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday would have been deflating for the Finn, but it proves just how much a team player he is.
Bottas was told to allow Hamilton through as they ran second and third behind the yet-to-stop Max Verstappen, and then played back up to prevent Sebastian Vettel to put any pressure on the championship leader.
Wolff, the Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, says it is always the intention of Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport to allow the quickest driver on the day to take the victory but the events of Russia were very different as it had championship implications.
“We are all racers at heart and what we want to see is out and out racing and may the quickest man win,” said Wolff. “But then we are a bunch of rational guys – we discuss things in the morning and then everything is different in the race. This is what happened today.
“We should be over the moon with a 1-2 and fundamentally we are. But we also feel that it went against Valtteri – it would have been a race win for him and we changed it. Valtteri is such a tremendous team player, but it’s deflating for a driver and deflating for a team.”
Wolff said Bottas was quick to relinquish the position when asked and he was full of praise for the character of the Finn, although denying him the victory makes him feel bad for the twenty-nine-year-old. However, with Hamilton challenging for the Drivers’ Championship, it was clear it was the right decision to make.
“Lewis was far back, but when we told Valtteri to switch position at Turn 13, he did it immediately,” he said. “This is who you want to have within the team because you need to rely on these guys in the same way they rely on us. This is what makes it feel even worse.”
“But there is a harsh reality also that on such a day you can extend the lead by several points more in a Championship that has been very tough and very difficult at times. Sometimes you have to take it and this is what we did today.
“We finished 1-2, we have a 50-point advantage and that feels good on a day that has otherwise been very difficult.”