'I knew what my job was', says dutiful Bottas

Race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates with second placed team mate Valtteri Bottas
© XPB 

Valtteri Bottas was once again the perfect 'wingman' to his Mercedes team mate in the Japanese Grand Prix.

He held on to second place in Suzuka from start to finish, and protected race winner Lewis Hamilton from the late pressure applied by Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

"This is a perfect result for the team and a great reward for an amazing performance from the entire team this weekend," Bottas said. "I'm happy that we could bring it home, this was my first podium here in Suzuka which was great.

“After the race start when I was second I kind of knew how the race was going to be," said the Finn after the finish. "We had to bring one-two home and that was it.

“I knew what my job was today, it was then to bring the car home in P2. That is what I did really," he said. "Everything felt good, I knew what I had to do and I was really just executing the plan."

Bottas said that he was certain that this would be the outcome of the race the minute he qualified in second position on Saturday.

"I think yesterday was the decisive moment,” he acknowledged. "I felt yesterday in the qualifying it was really getting better and better for me and it was pretty close in the end between us.”

But Bottas denied reports that he would always be required to ride shotgun to Hamilton until the 2018 championship is formally decided.

“I’m still able to challenge him,” he insisted. “It just depends on the situation, like the race in Russia. I’m still trying everything I can to keep upbeat for every race and trying to challenge.

"There are not that many races left and at some point I would guess he’s going to get the title hopefully and then we will see."

Start of the race: Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 W09 leads Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB14 who runs wide ahead of Kimi Raikkonen

The Mercedes cars looked to be cruising for mush of the race. But in the final laps, with help from a late Virtual Safety Car, Verstappen was able to close up to the back of Bottas and get within DRS range.

Bottas locked up on a number of occasions, including one point while he was trying to navigate lapped traffic, and it seemed that he was suffering tyre wear.

"At the end of the second stint I had some blistering, which made it a bit more tricky," he confirmed. "There have been issues with the blistering [in the last few races].

"Once we are getting to a certain temperature, we know it’s going to happen at some point, so then we’re just not pushing to go over those temperatures and trying to manage.

"At some places, like today, when it’s hot, in this high energy track, laterally, it’s pretty difficult and it does feel at times that you are completely cruising round which is not ideal.

"You know there’s so much potential in these cars and my thinking is if everyone did one stop today, if you do one stop pushing flat out it would be more fun but that’s the issue for everyone now. The cars are quicker than ever.

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 W09 in parc ferme

"There was no panic. It might have looked more difficult with Max than what it actually was, but it felt like a good margin," he said. "I had one lockup going into the last chicane where Max got a bit closer, but otherwise I was just managing and it was all under control."

“We managed to save the engine a bit because the pace was so good, but no issues otherwise."

Despite Verstappen finishing in third place and Daniel Ricciardo pipping Kimi Raikkonen to fourth, Bottas didn't think that Red Bull represented the same level of threat to the Silver Arrows as Ferrari.

“This weekend we were lucky that Ferrari was not challenging us because they did some mistakes,” he said. “It was Red Bull, and we don’t think Red Bull has as much pace as Ferrari."

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