Valtteri Bottas: Verstappen battle easier than expected

Valtteri Bottas says he was expecting it to be more difficult to get past Max Verstappen at the Styrian Grand Prix.

After qualifying in P4, the Mercedes driver struggled to catch the Dutchman during their opening stint of the race.

However, after pitting 10 laps later, he quickly began to close the gap to him late on. Aided by much fresher tyres and front-wing damage for Verstappen, he was far quicker and all over the back of him by Lap 66.

He went ahead at Turn 4, but not for long as the Red Bull fought back to briefly reclaim P2. Just a lap later, however, Bottas tried the same move again, and this time made it stick.

Bottas vs Verstappen Styrian Grand Prix. Great battle 💪🏻 #F1 Austria. pic.twitter.com/pH80NbhI8Y

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“He’s always going make it hard, there’s no doubt about that! I did enjoy it the first time around. I thought I had it,” the Finn told Autosport.

“But yeah, he definitely tried to do everything he could to stay ahead. So he was on the outside in Turn 3, which I kind of didn’t expect. So that’s why, second time around, I tried to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. It was good.

“We were going through Turns 5 and 6 side by side. But I realised in Turn 6 by the first time around, there’s not going to be a space anymore for two cars. So I decided to back off and try again. But yes, as you said, I did have momentum, I had tyre advantage.

“So, in the end, it was actually easier than what I thought it could be if I would think about that situation 10 to 15 laps earlier. I thought it was going to be close and tricky, but in the end, I think his tyres fell off.”

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Bottas finished the race in P2, just under 15 seconds behind his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who he never got close to. He feels that, without traffic, his pace would have been considerably better.

“I was not too worried about the tyres because we did a pretty long stint with the soft, the soft was holding on well, so I had really no big doubts about the medium,” he added.

“But of course didn’t want to go crazy with the backmarkers. I think I was a bit unlucky as well that there were some guys racing properly in front of me sometimes, more than one lap. And it really cost me quite a few seconds.

“So it was not as smooth as I wanted in terms of how to clear them. But then I saw and felt immediately once I got into clean air that everything is still pretty good. Tyre temperatures feel fine and I felt the pace was there.”

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