Bottas Recalls Shock F1 Retirement Plans After Mercedes Team Orders

Published 05/28/2021, 4:20 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – Portuguese Grand Prix – Algarve International Circuit – Portimao, Portugal – May 2, 2021 Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas before the race Pool via REUTERS/Gabriel Bouys


The 2018 Russian Grand Prix was undeniably one of the most heartbreaking races for the Mercedes F1 driver, Valtteri Bottas, who experienced the wrath of team orders. Ultimately, it cost the Finn his race victory, as he had to settle for P2 despite securing pole and technically leading the race until that point.

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Interestingly though, that specific race had left Bottas wondering if he should continue racing in F1. After managing to get past the tough 2018 season, Bottas claimed he was keen on calling the team and telling them he’s done with racing.

What did Valtteri Bottas say?

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In an episode of Netflix’s Drive to Survive season 3, Bottas mentioned the painful race at Sochi that almost cost him his career in F1. Following that, Bottas recently opened up about the same during an interview with GP Racing.

I managed to survive until the end [of the season],” he said. “I still tried to give it all I had every weekend. But once the season was over, I was really tired. Physically, yes, but mentally it was tough.

All the way until early January I was thinking should I call the team and say, ‘OK, that’s me, job done.’

Formula One F1 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain – Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas after the race Pool via REUTERS/Lars Baron

But then it was like a switch I found: basically, f*ck it, I’m not gonna give up. I had to see the big picture, that if I quit now, I would regret it all my life,” he said.

By the time the 2018 season came to an end, Lewis Hamilton went on to clinch his 5th world championship title. Meanwhile, there was Bottas, down in morale, lagging 161 points behind his teammate in P5.

The Mercedes team orders in Sochi

Starting from pole, Bottas had a brilliant getaway at lights out and managed to stay ahead into turn 1 despite the long straight. The Finn was doing quite well, keeping both Hamilton and his then-rival, Sebastian Vettel, at bay. Then arrived the first round of pit stops.

Bottas pitted first and moved down to P5, while Vettel pitted a lap later followed by Hamilton on lap 15. Despite losing the place to Vettel due to the late pit-stop, Hamilton managed to swoop past the German the very next lap.

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On lap 25, Bottas received a radio message from his race engineer, ordering the Finn to let his teammate past, despite dominating the race until that point. “You need to let Lewis by into turn 13,” he said.

Bottas immediately reacted, hoping to convince the team against swapping positions. “I was gonna go fast the next lap,” Bottas said. Seconds later, Bottas received a message from James Vowles.

Valtteri, it’s James. We had a risk with Lewis against Vettel. He has a small blister. I had to do this to make sure we secure this, I understand,” Vowles said. And there ended Bottas’ chances of winning the race in Sochi.

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Bottas recently moved into his 3rd season with Mercedes since then and is yet to think about retirement. But, this season has been comparatively tough for the Finn, and it looks like it could only be a matter of time before Bottas starts rethinking about retiring from F1. So, could 2021 mark Bottas’s final F1 season? Only time will tell.

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Rohit Kumar

1137 articles

Rohit Kumar is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. He has been an ardent follower of the racing series since 2007, with his love for the sport coinciding with his love for Kimi Raikkonen. He is also an ardent follower of Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin Racing.

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