Valtteri Bottas admitted he was made to look “like a fool” in Sunday’s Sakhir Grand Prix when Lewis Hamilton’s substitute George Russell outperformed him with a stellar, if unrewarded, drive.
The Mercedes pair finished eighth and ninth, with Bottas ahead, after an action-filled race, but it was Russell who shone as he had a stunning maiden victory taken from him by a bungled pit stop and a late puncture.
Bottas, who started from pole position, lost the lead at the start and struggled to mount a challenge as the young Briton, standing in for Covid-19 victim Hamilton, showed pace and poise at the front for 62 laps.
“If you don’t know things, I might have looked like a complete fool, so that’s not nice,” said Bottas.
“But the people who know, they know how the performance was and how the end result could have been.
“It was a pretty bad race for me and it’s easy for people to say that a new guy comes in and he beats the guy who has been in the team a few years — so it was not ideal.
“I knew that in the first stint, with the medium tyre, that the track position would be important so obviously it was unfortunate to lose that.
“But in the second stint, I was catching him at a pretty decent rate.”
Bottas’s bid to respond to Russell was undone when they both pitted during a safety car period and Mercedes muddled up their tyres.
“It’s hard to explain the feeling when you come to a pit stop and you leave with the same old tyres that you came in with — and then lose positions,” said the Finn.
“Obviously, a big mistake from the team that will be analysed and learned from –- it was a nightmare being on the old tyres that had lost temperature. I was like a sitting duck.”