Sebastian Vettel has defended Mercedes’ tactics during Formula 1’s Russian Grand Prix, insisting it was a “no-brainer” for Valtteri Bottas to cede position to Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton entered the weekend 40 points clear of Vettel in the standings, with neither of their respective team-mates in the title hunt, though it was Bottas who took pole and led early on.
Hamilton re-gained a position he lost to Vettel through the pit stop phase and reeled in Bottas as both caught the out-of-sequence Max Verstappen, who was yet to make his tyre change.
Mercedes instructed Bottas to allow Hamilton through and he dutifully obliged, and Hamilton went on to take victory, with Bottas second.
Vettel finished adrift of the Mercedes pair in third position, meaning he is now 50 points behind Hamilton with five rounds left, but saw no issue in their approach.
“Well done to both of them, they played very well together as a team,” he said.
“In their defence, all the questions… obviously I know that you guys [media] love controversy and therefore ask some naughty questions to them as individuals.
“But I think in the position they were in it was a no-brainer what they did today so maybe not all the questions are justified.
“For us, obviously we tried our maximum. I think there was a slim chance to finish ahead of Lewis.
“I went through the racing bit this afternoon, so we have to be third and settle with that for today.”
Vettel had jumped Hamilton by using the undercut but stayed ahead for only a couple of laps as the Mercedes driver was able to prise back second through Turn 4.
“I had a bit of a wobble into Turn 13, locked up and Lewis was quite close so he got DRS down the straight,” said Vettel.
“I saw him coming, it was very difficult to see with the mirrors but I thought I moved before the braking, so I wanted to make sure I covered the inside.
“Then, obviously I had a compromised run out of the second corner, defending my position. Then it was very difficult to see where he was.
“I couldn’t see him for a very very long time and then just saw his tyres and I knew that he was then somewhere there.
“I didn’t want to be a complete arse by pushing him into the dirt and potentially into the wall so I wasn’t quite sure where he was and then at some point I had to give in.
“I thought I could maybe get it back out of Turn 4 but I had to give him the entrance otherwise, you know, at some stage it just becomes silly.
“Obviously I wasn’t happy when I lost the position but I think we did what we could today.”