Valtteri Bottas admits he broke down and cried after losing a likely victory in this year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver was leading with three laps to go when he hit a piece of debris which punctured a tyre. He was forced to retire, which he called “one of the biggest disappointments I have had in my career.”
“I thought it was one my best races I have done,” Bottas explained in an interview for Mercedes. “I didn’t lead for a long time but I managed to fight myself up to the lead of the race.”
Bottas took the lead when the timing of a Safety Car period worked out in his favour, and had just seen off an attack from Sebastian Vettel when he was forced out.
“I remember just before the moment I had such good confidence and I felt everything was under control. I knew I’m going to take a little bit of luck and win the race but I hit some debris on the main straight which I didn’t see and had a puncture and the race finished there.”
The defeat hit Bottas hard as he had come close to winning both of the previous rounds. “A couple of races before that I nearly won, I was second a couple of times, and so I was really looking forward to winning my first race of the year but it never happened.
“Afterwards I could see the disappointment in the whole team. I got a lot of support from everyone.
“When I got back to the hotel I crashed completely, I dropped on my knees and I was crying like a small baby. But then I got up and decided one failure is not going to put me down.”
The debris Bottas hit was left following a collision between Kevin Magnussen and Pierre Gasly. Lewis Hamilton won the race for Mercedes but team principal Toto Wolff said the loss of a likely one-two was a “terrible moment”.
“Unbelievable, three laps before the end, because of a completely senseless manoeuvre he ran over debris, punctured a tyre and had to retire. This was a typical, super-cruel moment of Formula 1.”