Formula One: Hamilton defends teammate Bottas after Finn's slow response to team order

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton (left) and Valtteri Bottas celebrate on the podium after the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona on May 9, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

BARCELONA (REUTERS) - Spanish Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton has defended Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas after the Finn was slow to move over for the seven-time Formula One world champion on Sunday (May 9).

Hamilton was chasing down Red Bull's Max Verstappen for victory with Bottas between him and the Dutch driver but on older tyres.

"Lewis is fighting for the win," Bottas was told over the radio.

"Don't hold Lewis up," came another instruction, but the Finn, whose place at the team beyond this season is uncertain, did not make it easy.

Bottas told reporters afterwards that he needed to build up a gap to Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who finished fourth, so he could pit again and stay ahead.

"I was really focusing on my race so it was about balancing things. Of course, as a racing driver, you prioritise yourself, your race, because that's what we do," he said. "But also we work as a team, so you don't want to ruin the win for the team if that is possible; if it is not possible for you. So I tried to do the best thing I could for us as a team and for myself."

Hamilton, who lost precious time before he could get past and eventually overtake Verstappen, said he had not been concerned and was not even aware an order had been given by the team.

"In my mind, I was like, 'we're racing' and that's totally fine for me, particularly early on in this part of the season," said the championship leader, who is now 14 points ahead of Verstappen.

"We were going into Turn 10 and I thought there was a gap there and I wasn't quite sure and then there was a gap and Valtteri was completely fair."

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