Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2018

Bottas ‘hurt’ by Wolff’s ‘wingman’ description

2018 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Valtteri Bottas says it ‘hurts’ to have been described as a ‘wingman’ by Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff after the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Speaking to Sky after the end of the race that saw Lewis Hamilton claim victory but Bottas drop from second to fifth after two collisions with Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, Wolff described Bottas as an ‘exceptional wingman’.

“It was a great win for Lewis but it feels a little bittersweet, I don’t know why,” Wolff told Sky. “Valtteri deserved a podium because he was an exceptional wingman.”

When told of his team principal’s description of him, Bottas admitted he had found Wolff’s choice of words hurtful.

“Well, first of all ‘wingman’ hurts,” says Bottas. “Second of all, I don’t see any positives from this race for me. I wanted a better result.”

Bottas had pitted early to cover Kimi Raikkonen and was on over 40 lap old softs when he came under pressure from the Ferraris behind.

“Twenty laps from the end, everything was okay,” explains Bottas. “We could control the pace and my position, but then the rear tyres started to die.”

Bottas was passed by Vettel at turn one but tried to come back at the Ferrari into turn two, making contact with Vettel, leaving him with front wing damage.

I tried to defend the best I could, as aggressively as I could, but it ended up being a bit of a mess in the end with a broken front wing and everything.

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“I still had my nose inside into turn two, he was on the outside,” Bottas explains.

“He turned in very early, for me. There was nowhere for me to go, so we touched. I was the only one who got damage – fair enough. For me, it was a racing incident.”

After receiving damage, Bottas was then vulnerable to Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull, with the two also colliding into turn one.

“With Daniel, it was pretty much a similar thing. I was next to him on the inside. I had lost half of my front wing, so I was locking up as well. I’m sure he saw I was going quick into the corner, but he turned in and we touched.”

The stewards later penalised Bottas with a ten second post-race time penalty for the contact with the Red Bull.

Now 81 points adrift of his team mate in the drivers’ championship heading into the summer break, Bottas appears to expect that Mercedes will ask him to play a supporting role to team mate Hamilton in the remainder of the season.

“I think we need to speak after this race,” says Bottas. “We are over halfway through the year. The points gap is big, so for sure the team will decide at some point.”

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Will Wood
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56 comments on “Bottas ‘hurt’ by Wolff’s ‘wingman’ description”

  1. Complete D’OH moment for Toto.

    1. I’m not sure Mercedes should have been sucked into covering Raikkonen.

      It seems they tricked merc in to pitting Bottas way too early which ended up compromising the rest of his race.

      Although I can’t play out the possible result if that had played out to be fair. It could have resulted in Bottas ending up behind them and not acting as a buffer to Hamilton.

      Hard to say really. That was my initial instinct when watching the race.


      1. I agree. It was silly to worry about Ferrari’s wingman at that point. There was nothing to cover. Mercedes cost themselves the 1-2.

        Toto was obviously referring to this race and this race only, even though we all know it is true for all of them. I am sure the media member who asked the question did their best to frame it in the most controversal way possible.

      2. Alex McFarlane
        29th July 2018, 18:15

        Should have left Bottas out when Raikkonen pitted, seemed unnecessary to pit him at the time as Ferrari didn’t seem to have the pace advantage that they had in practice – maybe due to track temperatures falling significantly during the race.

        That he held off both Vettel and Raikkonen on aging tyres for so long makes me think he was right to be a bit annoyed, 2nd place looked there for him and Mercedes.

        1. Mercedes sandbagging in practice again.

      3. @mach1

        It seems they tricked merc in to pitting Bottas way too early which ended up compromising the rest of his race.

        That’s true, but they weren’t thinking about Bottas’ race, they were doing it for Hamilton.
        Had Räikkönen been able to lap in clean air after his pit stop, the Ferrari’s inherent pace would’ve created a problem for Hamilton. Keeping in mind their Friday longrun pace, there was a real danger of Räikkönen quickly gaining enough time to get into Hamilton’s pitstop window, which would’ve lead to two different, but equally unfavourable, scenarios for Hamilton:
        A) He would’ve been forced to pit uncomfortably early to stay ahead of Räikkönen, exposing himself to the risk of running out of tyre life before the end of the race
        B) He would’ve continued on his preferred strategy, coming out of the pits behind Räikkönen (whose tyre would’ve been about 10 laps older at that stage, so not really at a huge disadvantage), exposing himself to the risk that Räikkönen ends up serving as a ‘wingman’ for Vettel, managing his pace so that Vettel could stay ahead of Hamilton after his pitstop, or at least keeping the gap after the pit stop minimal, so that Vettel would’ve been able to attack Hamilton straight away, with a significant tyre advantage.

        Call him a wingman, call him a pawn, Bottas ended up doing what helped Hamilton the most, while his own result was secondary. From Mercedes’ perspective, this has been a very sensible move, and well executed at that.
        Of course, that’s a contradiction to the usual ‘Ferrari aren’t treating their drivers equally, they’re so evil, we would never do that’ narrative. But the only thing that proves, is that that narrative belongs on a landfill.

        1. OK, it helped Hamilton but surely it almost worked for Bottas too? What would Bottas do if he didn’t pit early to cover Kimi? Kimi would have undercut him, and with superior pace he would have probably stayed ahead of Bottas to the end. You can see with faster tires, faster car and fresher tires Vettel still needed very badly worn tires of Bottas to overtake, track position is worth a lot here and Mercedes gambled on it. With Vettel it would have been even worse.
          5 laps unfortunately is all it was Bottas was lacking in tire life of softs. He almost had 2nd, instead of very likely 4th.

        2. That’s true, but they weren’t thinking about Bottas’ race, they were doing it for Hamilton.

          They did not pit Bottas early for Hamilton’s benefit. If they wanted to use Bottas to help Hamilton they would have left him out holding up Vettel (the old Ferrari-Raikkonen trick). Raikkonen was over 12 seconds behind Hamilton when he pitted. Pitting Bottas was not to “hold Raikkonen up” as you put it as even after Bottas pitted Raikkonen still a further 7 seconds back. In the 10 laps between RAI/BOT pitting and HAM pitting neither RAI/BOT made any real gain into Hamiltons lead.

          Of course, that’s a contradiction to the usual ‘Ferrari aren’t treating their drivers equally, they’re so evil, we would never do that’ narrative

          Bottas’s race was run with Bottas’s best finishing position in mind, which given his obvious lack of pace compared to Hamilton, was 2nd. It was not run with Hamilton’s best position in mind, and saying that is a disservice to Bottas and the team.

          1. Of course they did not pit him for HAM benefit, BOT was never in cards for the win from Mercedes’ point of view anyway. 2nd place is the best Mercedes can offer him every time HAM is in front.

      4. Seems Ferrari intended a 2 stop for Kimi pitting him that early and also to force Merc to cover with Bottas. Meanwhile Merc didn’t want to 2 stop Bottas even though they pitted him so early as it would risk handing P2 to Vettel.

        So, Ferrari starting Vettel on Softs for a 1 stop, Kimi on US for a 2 stop was a pretty good strategy after all. Since Hamilton had clear sailing from the start at least this strategy gave Ferrari a good chance for P2, P3.

        1. So, they risked his strategy for the sake of keeping it ahead of VET on-track. Unlucky…

          1. Yes. P3 would be guaranteed for Bottas had he covered off Kimi’s second pitstop. But instead he is sacrificed to block Vettel. Mercedes couldn’t be expecting the soft tyres after defending against the Ferrari on the ultra softs for half of the race? Lol

      5. @mach1
        Thoughts? Nase covered pretty much all of it. @ivan-vinitskyy brings in “(..) surely it almost worked for Bottas too?”, but that’s only secondary. If Bot can capitalize on the strategy handed out to him by the team, then all the better, but they won’t permit him compromising Ham’s race. The teams and drivers know the fight is between Ham and Vet. Time and again the teams have sacrificed Bot’s and Rai’s race to favour their lead drivers to bring home the WDC.

      6. Just thought the same you did. When they pitted Kimi I thought “good try, Ferrari, but Merc are not so silly, they’re not gonna fall for that”, only to be proven wrong one minute later.

        Ferrari’s gamble was quite silly. Kimi was six seconds behind Bottas when he pitted. On top of that, he inevitably lost a lot of time behind Mag and Gas. In that situation the undercut was never gonna work. Therefore, there was no need for Mercedes to cover Kimi, Mercedes could have perfectly afforded the luxury of taking their time to see what happened, and most likely could have pitted Bottas ten laps later. Had they done so, they would have held Vettel much longer and, most importantly, Bottas wouldn’t have been vulnerable at the end of the race. With their silly move Merc handed second place to Vettel.

        Summarizing: Silly gamble by Ferrari, which surprisingly worked because Merc were even more silly.

    2. Poor Kimi must be the number two Mercedes driver as once again he’s not allowed to overtake the number one Ferrari driver.

      1. Vettel cleared Bottas in about 3-4 laps when Kimi is in DRS range of Vettel. So I’d say quite fair for this race. Same happened Raikkonen held up Vettel for like 7-8 laps in Hockenheim? Had it been 100% preferential treatment, Kimi would’ve been told to move aside immediately.

  2. Oh Valtteri, you didn’t really think you were allowed to challenge Hamilton for the WDC?
    Qualifying in front and perhaps winning a race was OK in the beginning of the season, but from now on you’ll be ‘promoted’ to be Hamilton’s b***h.
    Just make sure you get enough money out of it like Raikonnen

  3. I do think Wolff was talking specifically about this race (though he said it to RTL DE too, in the about the same words), and in this race, once HAM got away at the start and was then notably faster, really that’s all Bottas could be. Not the best way to put that though, perhaps. And good on Bottas to be hurt by that too; Had it not rained, Bottas would likely been well ahead of Hamilton in the race, and even now he did great in the rain. But, he again didn’t have luck, and Hamilton has more speed, if he can find it.

    1. Mercedes doesn’t pay Lewis five times Bottas’s salary for him to finish behind Bottas.

  4. I tried to defend the best I could, as aggressively as I could, but it ended up being a bit of a mess in the end with a broken front wing and everything.

    “I still had my nose inside into turn two, he was on the outside,” Bottas explains.

    “He turned in very early, for me. There was nowhere for me to go, so we touched. I was the only one who got damage – fair enough. For me, it was a racing incident.”

    At best Bottas had a millimetre of wing alongside Vettel’s car. For all intents it was Vettel’s corner, Bottas should have assumed that Vettel would think he had won the corner.

    Did Bottas actually think he was entitled to the racing line on that corner despite being pinned to the edge of the dirty side of the track?

    I’m not even sure he would have made the apex had Vettel compromised the corner by leaving more room.

    I think Bottas implicitly admits fault when says it was “fair enough” that he was the only one damaged in the incident.

    1. +1. It’s pretty much common sense racing, some still argue that it was VET’s fault too. It wasn’t even a 1st lap desperation moment. Actually, that was smart racing from VET, he cut his chances completely for an interior maneouver way before the braking zone, he just didn’t realize BOT is so much of a kamikaze guy and try to squeeze his car in 1m of tarmac left to the inside.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        29th July 2018, 18:33

        @mg1982 @tifoso1989 What line are you guys talking about? Where was Bottas supposed to go? Off the track, Vettel squeezed him out of the track completely.

        1. @freelittlebirds
          The racing line. Bottas would have never made T2 at that speed with the line he took with Vettel, he was heading straight to the runoff area.

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            29th July 2018, 19:26

            @tifoso1989 well, Vettel took the most aggressive racing line possible and the one that could and would have ended in a collision especially considering the aggressive turn and braking which left Bottas without an option to even turn the wheel into the corner as well as ride the kerb.

            There are racing lines and there are racing lines and I think Vettel (who’s a really bright guy especially when he is not driving), should have been able to tame the “other Vettel” who was driving the car and taken a racing line that allowed him to take P2 and avoid a collision which became inevitable there

      2. @mg1982
        ” Actually, that was smart racing from VET” that really?

        I think it was as dumb a move as it could get from Vettel! He didnt need to be that silly, he already covered the corner… But if you are watching F1 closely, you know vettel did far worse moves in mexico gps to (2017) destroy ham’s race yet didnt get a penalty let alone investigation, (2016) swearing at everyone left and right,, and few weeks back bottas race right at the start… if just being at the start, excuses these crimes, i guess you are no better at judgement that “consistent FIA”

        So if you still think FIA/Stewards are really punishing same moves fair and square, i guess we are watching alternative universe version of races…

    2. He was just trying to intimidate Vettel to give him back the position, anyone with a little racing knowledge would have figured out that Bottas move was just desperate given the state of his tyres and the dirty line he has committed and that gap was always going to disappear. Even if his tyres miraculously gripped, nevertheless that would have ended up in a collision with Vettel. It’s clear for me how he turned aggressive in the last couple of races in his defence like he was told to do so.

      1. @tifoso1989
        “Even if his tyres miraculously gripped” but thats true for race starts too, and Vettel did crash hamilton and drop him to absolute back of the grid in mexico last year without even a hint of investigation! Same he did to Bottas… did Vettel really think he would get miraculous grip into corners like that? I guess, people enjoy mercs being rammed/crashed by rivals and dont read too much into that as racing incidents… yet when roles reversed, ferrari fans/people suddenly turns world up side down…

        1. Bottas is basically just an annoying roadblock. Wingman is a generous description.

  5. Poor Bottas, it hurts… He started the season incredibly well, better than Hamilton in fact, only to be struck with bad luck. For whatever reason he just hasn’t kept that form and founds himself trailing Hamilton most of the time now, performancewise, so yeah, it’s going to be wingman until the end of this year, and dare I say it until the end of their time as team mates. I feel like he hasn’t shown that greed and ruthlessness typical of most F1 champions, either this or last year. He has shown that he is a dependable, reliable driver, the safe choice Mercedes was looking for after Rosberg’s departure, and the reason why they never really pursued the likes of Ricciardo or Alonso.

    1. billbranch (@)
      29th July 2018, 18:23

      For my money Bottas is, in all respects, one of the classiest drivers in F1.

      Besides the money side of it, I can not understand why he hooked up with a jerk like Toto Wolff.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        29th July 2018, 18:29

        @billbranch agreed, Bottas is a class act

      2. @billbranch – Right, he should leave Mercedes and go back to Williams where he’d have a much better chance of winning races.

        1. Invisiblekid
          29th July 2018, 23:26


  6. I’m starting to dislike Wolff.

    1. @carbon_fibre Since 2014 you mean?

    2. I hate everyone, that’s the secret

  7. Yeah Wingman? Except at the start, Hamiltion was way out of sight of Bottas most of the race, more of moving road block 1 km behind, and he almost failed at that, had Vettel’s one and only pit stop worked.

  8. Bottas’ smile and optimism: Gone

  9. Oooops…. Mercedes managed to make a complete mockery of their no.2 driver in less than 2 years, something Ferrari “failed” to do in 20 years. And he doesn’t even have a no.2 contract…

    1. a complete mockery of their no.2 driver in less than 2 years, something Ferrari “failed” to do in 20 years


      1. billbranch (@)
        29th July 2018, 18:15

        Kindly revisit Monaco 2017.
        End of conversation.

        1. @billbranch: no need, thanks. VET simply was faster and made the undercut with some fast laps after RAI was pitted. RAI was just dreaming Ferrari will make VET his leutenant, and let him win the race just because he started from pole position and managed to keep the lead after the start.

          1. billbranch (@)
            29th July 2018, 18:37

            I shall not argue or attempt to change your mind by confusing you with facts. All I’ll say is that you must exercise caution when using laxatives or you might experience a sudden decrease in hat size.

          2. VET simply was faster and made the undercut with some fast laps after RAI was pitted

            Yeah its amazing what pitting RAI into traffic at Monaco will do eh ;)

          3. @ Martin: what traffic are you talking about, 2 backmarkers (1 being passed on the straight)?! After 35 laps he was still only +1sec ahead of VET. What kept him from driving into distance?! He came out of pits 3rd, more than 10sec behind RIC. VET pitted 3 laps later, setting FL after FL in these 3 laps. Obviously RAI slowed him down. 1:16 compared to 1.17 previously doesn’t ring any bell? So, what did you prefer, to pit VET 1st and send him behind backmarkers? That doesn’t mean messing up his strategy? Why pit VET when he was the fastest on track? Usually the guy in front gets to pit first, and RAI did get that priority. It’s not VET’s fault he lapped a lot faster once RAI was out of his way.

      2. He called him a “wingman”. Ferrari did not give their no.2 driver names in public to make obvious their use! What part didn’t you understand?!

    2. what are you smoking?

    3. Bottas went from driving a car with no chance to win to a top team and a top car that gives him a chance every race weekend, if he’s good enough to capitalize. He should have very few complaints. Toto I believe was referring to the particular circumstances of this race when he labeled Bottas a good wingman, but even if Toto was referring to his points standings and how he will need to approach races going forward the rest of this season, so what? Have you seen where his former team Williams is right now? Would he prefer to still be in that seat with their horrific struggles?

      1. Whatever he is smoking, it is of a good quality :D

    4. @mg1982

      Mercedes managed to make a complete mockery of their no.2 driver in less than 2 years, something Ferrari “failed” to do in 20 years. And he doesn’t even have a no.2 contract…

      Your levels of delusion are a ridiculous. Ferrari humiliated Barrichello on many an occasion, then Massa and now Kimi. Just because the word “wingman” didn’t slip out of their team principal’s mouth doesn’t mean that Ferrari haven’t treated their #2 drivers with little to no respect.

      Man.. we know you’re a hard core tifosi but it’s laughable how anyone who supports Ferrari can accuse another team of disrespecting a #2 driver.

      1. No, it’s the opposite: it’s laughable, a sore laugh, because Ferrari are blamed too much for it when the others practiced it just as much, sometimes without curtain at all, some other times taking it to another level… like now.

        Ferrari humiliated Barrichello many times?! Stop making up things. What’s next, they robbed him of champs and gave them to Schumacher?! How come you don’t see the humiliation Schumacher had to endure when he played it 2nd to Irvine in 1999?! Or Salo while replacing Schumacher?! How come you don’t see McLaren humiliating Coulthard for Hakkinen’s benefit?! Hey, at least Schumacher offered Barrichello back that 2002 Austria win. So, it’s not all black on one side, all white on the other side. Things are more grey all over the place than you could think.

  10. Bottas: Some out of context news around… I have not called a meeting with the bosses for Toto saying I was the perfect wingman in this race. There is no need to. I was disappointed with my end result in the race and saw everything in a negative way for a moment. I know what he meant, and he would have said the same about Lewis if he’d be in same situation and had a similar race. We are on equal terms and I trust the team 100% on that. All good. We’ll keep pushing! It’ll come.

  11. I am the Whingman goo goo ga joob…

    Poor Valterri. Rescued from the clutches of Williams only to discover a different twist of fate.

    1. Yep, from the clutches of uncertainty to the champions pounds seats. None will admit it but most drivers would loooove that seat. Even if it means being number 2. Fifty percent of something is better then one hundred percent of nothing.

  12. Bottas the Wingman
    Toto the Wulf
    Hamilton the Baby
    Kimi the Snowman
    Vettel the Ping-Pong dude.

  13. Poor Bottas, ever so unlucky this season and at least Hamilton’s equal in terms of performance. Always professional though, seems like a great chap. Toto Wolff has always annoyed me and this doesn’t raise my opinion of him at all.

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