Lewis Hamilton says he tried to convince his Mercedes team not to use team orders at the Russian Grand Prix and was prepared to hand the lead back to Valtteri Bottas at the end of the race if the team had requested it.
Hamilton took a commanding 50-point lead in the championship in Sochi after teammate Bottas was ordered to give up his position on lap 25 of the race, effectively handing the British driver the win. The order came after Bottas got bottled up behind Max Verstappen, who was on a different strategy, and Hamilton’s title rival Sebastian Vettel started to threaten a Mercedes one-two victory.
But when he was informed of the position swap over team radio, Hamilton said he responded by asking for Bottas to simply speed up.
“Honestly, when I got the call that they had said that to Valtteri, I don’t know if you heard me, but I just said ‘tell him to speed up’,” he said. “So they told me on the radio that Valtteri is going to let you go, which is not what I wanted, and I just said ‘tell him to speed up’ because I had Sebastian on my tail and it was getting quite close.”
Hamilton said he was prepared to let Bottas back through for the win at the end of the race.
“Naturally, passing him didn’t feel good in that instance, in Turn 13 and I don’t know what was planned for the end,” he added. “I was waiting to get some news or something like that.
“I knew that the team wanted it to end that way, they had make that call it confirmed to me they wanted it to end that way.
“But honestly it’s very, very hard to find the right words. It’s a very strange feeling. We’ve had a 1-2, we’ve dominated as a team this weekend — the team has done an incredible job. It’s never ever in my whole life ever been the way I wanted to win a race. I just wanted to shine onto Valtteri; there’s not many teammates that would do something like that.”
Hamilton, who now looks set to be crowned a five-time world champion by the end of the season, said he felt conflicted by the result in Russia.
“As I said, I definitely don’t think I have ever finished first and felt the way I do right now. It’s definitely a very conflicting feeling because naturally you want to extend the championship lead and we are a team, yet there’s two championships — a team championship and a drivers’ championship — so it’s quite a conflicting season and team effort.
“But, anyways, I mean as I said, Valtteri has done an exceptional job all weekend and did a great job with qualifying yesterday and you could see how happy I was for him there.”