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Bottas was expecting a ‘big battle’ against Russell before pit stop blunder

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas says he was expecting a wheel-to-wheel battle for the win against team-mate George Russell towards the end of the Sakhir Grand Prix before the team’s pit stop error hindered their fight.

Russell and Bottas were running in first and second place respectively for much of the race, and both pitted when a Safety Car was called on Lap 63.

In a flurry of confusion, Russell was fitted with tyres from Bottas’ allocation, meaning he had to stop again on the following lap to correct the mistake. Subsequently, Bottas’ pit stop was almost 30 seconds long, causing him to drop out of the podium positions.

Bottas was catching Russell before the mishap as they both ran the Hard tyre, and was confident he would have been able to launch an attack on the Briton for the win.

“I knew that in the first stint, with the Medium tyre, track position would be important, so it was unfortunate to lose that,” Bottas said.

“But on the second stint I was catching him at a pretty decent rate, so I knew everything was still open and, most likely, we could have a big battle.

“Nothing really surprising there. He obviously did a mistake-free race, but that was nothing unexpected. I still believed everything was to be played for, especially towards the end of the stint on the Hard tyres.”

Bottas was fitted with old Hard tyres during the calamity-filled pit stop, leaving him vulnerable in the final laps to cars behind.

“Obviously, a big mistake from the team that will analyse and learn from,” the Finn said. “I think that was the main thing.

“It was a nightmare, I was on the old Hard tyre, that had already lost a lot of temperature in the pit stop, against the guys that were on fresh Medium tyres, so I was like a sitting duck. It was a pretty nightmarish situation.”

Bottas ended the race in eighth place, the second consecutive grand prix he has finished in that position. Mercedes was fined €20,000 for the pit stop gaffe.

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