Lewis Hamilton wants to avoid a repeat of the team orders controversy that overshadowed the Russian Grand Prix last September. Valtteri Bottas was leading the race after securing pole position the day before, but was asked to move over for teammate Hamilton.
Hamilton was fighting for the drivers' championship while Bottas was considered out of the battle. However the decision sparked huge upset in the F1 community, as Bottas was on course to secure his first win of the season after coming close earlier on in the year.
The swap granted Hamilton an extra seven points, but would go on to finish the championship 88 points clear of rival Sebastian Vettel: "By this point in the year the team were like, ‘we’re going to do everything to make sure, Lewis is now so far ahead you can’t catch him in the championship.
"So now we’ve got to start supporting him to make sure we tie up both championships’. Neither Valtteri nor I sit in the room saying we want cars reversed, we just want to go out there and earn the position and race for it. Ultimately Valtteri was quicker that weekend and deserved to win.
“But it was really awkward. When I got the call that Valtteri was going to let me by, I can’t remember exactly, I think I said something like ‘just tell him to speed up’. I think in the race I was quicker, in qualifying he was quicker.”
Hamilton admitted that he contemplated giving the position back before the end of the race, while Bottas also questioned if the cars would be swapped back to their original positions.
“I remember seeing him pull over and I continued by. It’s not ever the way I’ve ever wanted to win and I don’t think any driver wants to win that way. Coming across the line I’m very conflicted because if I think with my heart then I would have had it the other way but in life and in competition you’ve got to seize the moment, you’ve got to take it as it comes and you’ve got to seize it when you have the opportunity.
"If you put your feelings first you might not come out where you planned, if that makes sense. The team had taken the decision and even though I really wanted, the whole rest of that race, you just let him back by, I took the decision to stick with what the team had chosen to do.
“It was the right decision to make but ultimately in the end we didn’t need to have that day. But I think it was an important day in the sense of how we come together. It was a hard day for Valtteri but I think he was fully respectful and a real, great team player.
"He’s been an incredible teammate. It’s not easy being my teammate but it’s also not easy being his teammate because he’s very, very fast, he’s very quick and he’s continuing to get faster and faster. I’ve been here six years, this was only his second year, and he really keeps me on my toes. I really hope that there’s never a scenario like this again. ”
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing