Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff denies Valtteri Bottas is serving as a number two drivers after referring to him as a “wingman” following the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Bottas said being described as a wingman “hurt”. He spent much of the race under pressure from Sebastian Vettel after making an early pit stop, then fell to fifth in the final laps after his tyres went off.
He described Bottas’s driver as the best he had done for the team since joining them at the beginning of last season.
“In today’s race starting P2 after lap one, Valtteri’s race was the perfect wingman’s race. And I don’t mean it in championship terms. We have no number two.
“But how he was racing was from my standpoint the best race so far with Valtteri at Mercedes. The bittersweet feeling that I have is he would have deserved to have finished P2, where he started and where he was after lap one.
“But maybe the word ‘wingman’ doesn’t do him justice. He drove a sensational race and helped Lewis in a way to build the lead. Lewis on the other side drove a faultless, spectacular race as well.”
Wolff defended Bottas over his collisions with Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo later in the race. Speaking before the stewards gave Bottas a 10-second penalty for tangling with Ricciardo, Wolff said both should be considered racing incidents.
“I don’t know how many laps [his] tyres had on but I think it was around 54. The tyre was completely shot. We were surprised how he managed to hold Sebastian and Kimi [Raikkonen] behind him from 25 or so laps. And we knew than the last five laps would be really critical.
“Sebastian made a good move into turn one on the inside and there was no traction on Valtteri’s car any more. he stayed on the incident on the dirty line, braked late, there was also nowhere to go. A complete normal racing incident.
“The second one the same. The second one looked a bit harsh when you look at the pictures but considering he was on the dirty line and the tyre was shot and the car was damaged on the front wing there was nowhere to go. Daniel tried on the outside, didn’t know that Valtteri’s car was not in perfect state any more and this is how they collided. Nothing on purpose.”
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