Valtteri Bottas’ championship challenge ended in extraordinary fashion in a Turkish GP in which the Mercedes driver spun six times and was lapped by team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who closed out the 2020 title with a brilliant race win.
Bottas’ title prospects were bleak heading into a weekend with the Finn knowing that he needed to outscore Hamilton by eight points or more to stay in distant mathematical contention heading to Bahrain in two weeks’ time.
But after qualifying three places behind Hamilton in ninth as Mercedes struggled in wet qualifying, Bottas’ Sunday turned into possibly the most tortuous afternoon of his F1 career.
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At Turn One, Bottas spun while taking evasive action to avoid Esteban Ocon’s Renault, who had been tapped into a spin by his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, and then ran in to the same car later around the lap as he tried to recover lost ground.
The contact damaged Bottas’ Mercedes and meant he “struggled to stay on track” over the rest of the race, with other off-course slides. He finished outside the points in 14th place, with Hamilton increasing the pain by lapping him late in the race.
“That was a long race – such a long day,” admitted a downcast Bottas. “In the first lap everything went wrong.
“Someone in the first corner spinning, then I was avoiding and I spun as well. Then I had a contact in Turn Nine and the car was not the same anymore.
“I struggled to stay on track, I couldn’t stay on track. The steering wheel was like this [not straight] and there was a piece missing from the front wing. It was survival. Not good.”
Later summing up his day on Twitter, Bottas simply posted:
That race was a disaster 🇹🇷🏁
Live and learn.#VB77 #F1 #TurkishGP @MercedesAMGF1 @F1 pic.twitter.com/1U1Jy47nId
Bottas: Hamilton ‘fully deserves’ 2020 title
Congratulations @LewisHamilton for your 7th @F1 title 🤜🤛#VB77 #LH44 #F1 #TurkishGP @MercedesAMGF1 @F1 pic.twitter.com/zSk5jpGcJT
But despite the disappointment of his own race and Istanbul weekend, Bottas was magnanimous in offering praise for Hamilton’s achievement and 2020 season as a whole.
“He deserves it fully,” said the Finn. “He was [the] better of us this year overall on average. Really good for him. But I’ll try to beat him next year.”
With Hamilton now leading the standings by an unassailable 110 points, Bottas’ focus will be on seeing off Max Verstappen for second place in the championship. With three races to go in the Middle East, Bottas leads the Red Bull driver by a reduced margin of 27 points.
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