Mercedes Formula 1 team boss Toto Wolff says it was “cheeky but understandable” for Valtteri Bottas to wait until the final sector before slowing to allow his team-mate Lewis Hamilton a run at the fastest lap bonus point at the Dutch Grand Prix.
Verstappen and Hamilton were in a two-driver fight for the victory at Zandvoort, with Bottas running in a distant third place.
After Mercedes unsuccessfully used him to try and slow down Verstappen earlier in the race, Bottas was told to pit late as a precaution due to “vibrations” in his worn tyres.
Mercedes fitted soft tyres to Bottas’s car, but he was told there would be no attempt to go for the fastest lap.
However, Bottas was on course to set a very competitive time that could seriously challenge for the fastest lap point before he was told to back off to avoid taking the point away from Hamilton.
Even backing off, Bottas did record what was the fastest time of the race at that point, but Hamilton then pitted with two laps to go and claimed it on the final lap regardless, by 1.452 seconds.
“It was a bit cheeky, but understandable. Valtteri is always on the receiving end because this championship is so tight and he lifted off massively in the last sector,” Wolff said.
“It was clear that Lewis would do the quickest lap again, Valtteri knew about it. At the end, Lewis is in the fight for the drivers’ championship [and he] got his point and it’s all good.”
When further queried about the fact Bottas’ late improvement could’ve cost Hamilton the point in case of yellow flags or another disruption, Wolff said: “It could have ended up in the loss of a point for Lewis and it would also have also been not right because he had fastest lap until then. But you have to understand also at that point a certain degree of frustration for Valtteri, and at the end everything is good.
“We are going to talk about it but in a most amicable and professional way. But I can certainly relate to the situation.”
Bottas shrugged off any suggestions of tensions within the team or that he’d disobeyed the team order by still setting the fastest lap.
“To be honest, there was quite a big gap ahead, a big gap behind so for safety reasons it was a good thing to stop,” Bottas said.
“I thought initially we would stop for the fastest lap, but then also Lewis had a gap so then Lewis stopped.
“I was pushing on the first lap sector one, two, like flat out and then they started asking me to slow down at the end of the lap and I was just playing around, really, because Lewis needs that one extra point more than me.
“He is fighting for the world championship in the drivers’ [championship], and as a team, we’re trying to get the maximum points so that’s how it is.”
Bottas added that there was “no drama” as he knew Hamilton could comfortably beat his fastest time.
Hamilton said “it doesn’t really matter” if Bottas would have ended up with the fastest lap and he was “completely unaware” of the situation until after the race.
“It was my choice to stop. I needed that extra point. So I did,” he added.