Valtteri Bottas says Mercedes team orders kicked in after the start of the Japanese Grand Prix as ‘we had to bring one-two home’ but has reaffirmed he is able to fight Lewis Hamilton for race wins for the remainder of the year.

The Mercedes driver was unable to find the drive to pass teammate Hamilton into the first corner and duly slotted into second place while keeping clear of the Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen clash at the end of the opening lap.

Despite coming under pressure from Verstappen in the Red Bull over the closing laps, Bottas held on to secure Mercedes’ second consecutive one-two results, and fourth of the 2018 Formula 1 campaign.

While talk of team orders dominated the pre-race discussions, following the Mercedes call to Bottas to let Hamilton overtake him for the lead at last week’s Russian Grand Prix, the Finnish driver admitted once the running positions were settled at the start he accepted second place would be his maximum at Suzuka.

“Today, after the start, I knew what was going to be the case,” Bottas said. “We had to bring one-two home and that was it. There are not that many races left and at some point I would guess he’s going to get the title hopefully and then we will see.

Bottas says he can battle Hamilton at all remaining races this season, despite the F1 world title fight still being undecided, as he aims to secure a first win of the year after making his eighth rostrum this year in Japan.

“I’m still able to challenge him,” he said. “It just depends on the situation, like the race in Russia, so I’m still trying everything I can to keep upbeat for every race and trying to challenge.

“I felt yesterday in the qualifying it was really getting better and better for me and it was pretty close in the end between us.”

While challenging the top two in the F1 drivers’ standings looks unlikely for Bottas, the Finn did tighten his grip on third place in the championship with second place in Japan. The Mercedes driver now holds an 11-point margin over fellow countryman Kim Raikkonen having taken third from him last time out in Russia.

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