Max Verstappen has blamed Valtteri Bottas for twice ruining their laps during qualifying for the European Grand Prix, though the Finn insists he had no choice but to attempt overtakes into T1 or compromise his own efforts.
The pair almost came to blows at the start of Q3 when Bottas – getting a tow from Verstappen ahead – committed to passing the Red Bull driver into T1, which he achieved but not without losing both time. A similar incident would then take place in a tight pack as the drivers attempted a final run in the closing stages.
With each losing out in the double scuffle, leaving Bottas ending up eighth and Verstappen ninth, the Spanish Grand Prix race winner says the Williams driver was 'not clever' in compromising both of their efforts.
“It's just not clever,” Verstappen said. “I was preparing for my timed lap and I understand he wants a tow, but I think there was not one point where he was able to overtake me and brake in a sensible position. So I lose my lap and he loses his own lap. I can understand if it's just once and you say 'OK, his top speed is not too bad and I am not able to do this', but to do it again in Q3, I just don't get it.”
Bottas, meanwhile, insisted he was left in an unfortunate scenario as he had expected Verstappen to do a double out-lap ahead of his first run but instead found him going for a fast time. Keen not to scrub off speed on the straight, Bottas believed he could get by Verstappen without hindrance.
“I thought the only option for me was to try to overtake, which I could do but for sure that ruined his lap but also mine. I got some dirt on my tyre and I don't even call that a lap. I just put a lap time on the board and that was good enough for P8.
“[On the second run] I knew there wasn't enough time to back off and leave a gap to Verstappen, so I saw my only opportunity was to fight for track position and try to overtake him going into T1. I couldn't do it, it ruined my lap and his lap but I was driven into a very difficult situation today.”
Despite the bad outcome for the drivers – who both felt they could have battled for the front row – Bottas nonetheless feels he was justified in attempting to fight for track position.
“You either abort the lap or you try to overtake, hoping you can still get back on the line and have a good lap, with nice top speed. I was trying to fight for track position a couple of times but it didn't work out. For sure Max isn't happy, but I'm not planning to talk to him. For sure he lost something with that, but he needs to understand I was also fighting for my track position and for my qualifying result.”
Despite labelling Bottas as 'dangerous', Verstappen says he won't be calling for a penalty.
“I don't say a penalty, but it was dangerous what he was doing. Dangerous and unnecessary and not clever. For me it's fine, but I hope he learns from it.”
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