SOCHI, Russia, April 27 (Reuters) - Valtteri Bottas says he will move aside for Lewis Hamilton if Formula One champions Mercedes ask him to, although there have been no talks about ‘team orders’ ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.
The Finnish driver has met the call once already in the first three races, letting team mate Hamilton chase Ferrari’s eventual winner Sebastian Vettel on fresher tyres in Bahrain.
But such action did not mean accepting triple champion Hamilton as number one, said Bottas, who replaced retired 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg alongside a man second only to Michael Schumacher in terms of race wins.
“This team has never had a number one or number two driver and is not planning to. I understand that this year it (team mates being allowed to race on equal terms) can cost points,” he told reporters on Thursday when asked about the team potentially having to favour one driver over another.
“If for any reason, like for me in Bahrain the pace of the other car is not good, then the team really need to think and be clever not to lose any points,” Bottas added.
While last year the title was a battle between Hamilton and Rosberg with the pair winning 19 of 21 races, there is a risk that Ferrari could take advantage of Mercedes drivers taking points from each other.
That happened in 2007, when Hamilton and then-McLaren team mate Fernando Alonso tied on 109 points and Raikkonen took the title with 110.
So far this year, Vettel has won two of the first three races and leads Hamilton, winner of the other, by seven points.
Hamilton is 23 points ahead of Bottas, who has yet to win a grand prix, while Vettel has scored double the points of Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen.
“If I have some issues in this race, for whatever reason, or we are in different strategy or Lewis is stuck behind me, or the team tells me to move over, I will,” said Bottas.
“We are doing this as a team and our target is to get maximum points for the team.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin; editing by Alexander Smith)