Valtteri Bottas says his 2019 Monaco Grand Prix was “decided in the pits” following a clash with Max Verstappen that cost him a potential shot at victory.
Bottas had been beaten to pole-position by his team-mate Lewis Hamilton and trailed the championship leader during an early-race safety car period. The busy pit-lane saw Verstappen launch into the side of Bottas as the pair raced from their pit-boxes, closely followed by Sebastian Vettel.
The contact left Bottas with a puncture and the Finn was forced to stop again the following lap, dropping him to fourth behind Vettel.
“My race was decided in the pits,” says Bottas. “We did a double-stacked pit stop under the Safety Car, Lewis first, then me. Vettel and Verstappen came in as well and when I left the pits, Max was released at the same time and was side-by-side with me.
“We touched, I hit the wall because there’s no space to go and I got a right-front puncture. So I had to do another pit stop the following lap. At that point, I thought I’d be at the end of the field, but I only lost a couple of places, so I guess I was unlucky but lucky at the same time.
Verstappen was handed a five-second penalty for the incident and would drop from second at the finish line to fourth, promoting Bottas to the podium behind Vettel and race-winner Hamilton.
“It’s always disappointing if you finish the race lower than you qualified; however, my pace was really good all weekend long and I still scored valuable points for me and the team.
“One of my first thoughts this morning was that I wanted to drive well for Niki [Lauda], I wanted to win for him. Ultimately, I didn’t, but Lewis did, so I’m sure Niki would be proud right now.”