Valtteri Bottas says he “didn’t quite have the pace,” in the Brazilian Grand Prix where his fifth-place finish was enough to help the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motoesport team clinch the Formula 1 constructors’ championship.
From third on the grid, Bottas made a strong start to the race, quickly passing the Scuderia Ferrari car of Sebastian Vettel to slot in behind team-mate Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap.
The Finnish driver was then overtaken by the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen as he struggled with overheating tyres throughout the first stint on the supersoft Pirelli rubber.
After Vettel was hauled in by Ferrari for a second pitstop, Mercedes covered the move with Bottas, meaning he finished the grand prix in fifth place, while team-mate Hamilton secured his 10th victory of the season.
The 35 points that Mercedes scored in the race was enough for the team to retain the world constructors’ championship, becoming only the second team in history to do so in five consecutive seasons, after Ferrari between 1999-2004.
“I think we didn’t quite have the pace today. It was a slightly tougher race than I expected,” explained Bottas. “I was a bit more optimistic before the race, but overall it is a great day for Mercedes.
“In the first stint, I was struggling with overheating tyres [and] in the second stint, I was struggling with blistering on the mediums, so we had to stop a second time. Everything went as planned at the start, but after that it got more difficult.”
Since F1 adopted the turbo hybrids ahead of the 2014 season, there have been 99 grands prix. Mercedes has won 73 (50 Hamilton, 20 Nico Rosberg, and three for Bottas.)
The team was utterly dominant throughout the first three seasons of the formula, accumulating over 700 championship points in each of those seasons, while also becoming the first team to retain their championship titles over a major regulation change in the 2017 season.
And Bottas was keen to pay tribute to the “hidden heroes” at Mercedes’ Brackley and Brixworth bases.
“We kept everything together even under immense pressure, minimised our mistakes and did a great job developing our car,” he said.
“[It] it down to hard work by every single team member, both back at the factories and here at the race track. It is usually only a few people who are in the spotlight all the time, but there are many hidden heroes in our team.”
Bottas’s fifth-place finish at Interlagos was enough to move him onto 237 points in the drivers’ standings. He is 14 points behind Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen and just three ahead of Verstappen ahead of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.