It’s fair to say we saw a different side to Valtteri Bottas at the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix last weekend.
I don’t mean that by way of his performance in the race, in which he finished a distant third, something which is becoming far too common, but it was the manner in which he didn’t easily allow his teammate Lewis Hamilton through in the early part of the second stint.
Having pitted for fresh tyres, Hamilton had begun his pursuit of Max Verstappen in a bid to win the race, but shortly after emerging from the pits he found himself closing in on Bottas who at that time was running second, but who was on a completely different strategy.
As you would expect, the team immediately got on to the radio and asked Bottas to let Hamilton by and not to hold him up.
A Bottas of previous seasons would have complied with this request without any major issue. Of course, he’d be a little frustrated but he’d accept he was in the fight for the win and that the team needed this switch to take place quickly in order to allow Hamilton to try and secure the win and with it, 25 points for the team.
But last weekend was different. Yes Hamilton got by, but he had to make a real overtaking move into Turn 10. Bottas didn’t let him through like he was asked and you could see Hamilton had to work for it.
Many immediately assumed that there may have been further chatter between Bottas and the team on the radio about the matter, but after the race, the Finn confirmed that wasn’t actually the case. He just simply didn’t listen to the team request.
Speaking to Sky Sports about the incident after the race, Bottas said: “I definitely could have let him by earlier, but I was doing my own race as well.
“It was calculating things and I was trying to get Charles off the pit window so I could stop again and try and go for an extra point, so the main thing in my mind was my own race.”
This comment was an unusually bullish approach from Bottas and very different to the normal responses we are used to hearing from him after a grand prix. So does this indicate something more is at stake?
It’s fair enough for Bottas to say that it was a move for position and he had his own race to consider, and yes he was possibly considering Leclerc’s position on the circuit, but at that stage Bottas was clear faster than the Ferrari and it ended up costing him more time in going offline when Hamilton barged his way through than it had of been if Bottas had let him by on the straight before.
So that logic doesn’t really stack up.
It appeared more likely that this was a stance Bottas was deliberately taking against the team to make them sit up and take notice that he is not prepared to be a number two driver, despite the fact this season he is clearly slower than his teammate.
Pressure can cause you to make questionable decisions and Bottas isn’t short of that at the moment. His contract is up at the end of the season and he has Russell breathing down his neck trying to prise the seat away from him.
And when there is another driver of Russell’s quality lurking on the sidelines it’s imperative Bottas notches up brilliant performances week in, week out and right now he’s not achieving that.
Over a single lap it is clear he can give Hamilton and Verstappen a good run for their money, but he is consistently showing that he simply doesn’t have the pace to keep up with them in the race.
So he needs to find other ways to fight his corner and earn a contract extension, but was ignoring team orders the way to go? Surely not.
Bottas will probably reflect on last weekend and consider that he maybe shouldn’t have held Hamilton up in the way that he did for all it really did was raise questions as to whether Bottas has stopped being a team player.
And as the season goes on and Mercedes continues to evaluate its 2022 driver line-up errors like this could prove to be costly.