There may have been fighting words from Valtteri Bottas but his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton remains confident his Formula One title defence is on track after a disappointing Australian Grand Prix.
The usually stoic Bottas could not hide his emotions after ending a 22 race winless streak by claiming the season opener, yelling on the team radio: “To whom it may concern, f*** you!”.
Bottas hit back at critics who claimed he lacked a “killer instinct” after ending a winning drought that stretched back to November 2017.
It relieved pressure on the off-contract Finn who was battling to keep his seat after finishing fifth in the 2018 standings without a season win and with reserve driver Esteban Ocon breathing down his neck.
“It just came, I just wanted to send my best regards,” Bottas said about the outburst.
“That’s it. Honestly, I didn’t think about it or plan it, it just came.
“There are always ups and downs and you can really see the true support quite easily.
“Then through the difficult times there’s the other part, which is a lot more negative – that’s their weakness so it’s fine.”
‘Need to work on my starts’
Bottas pulled off a boilover by finishing almost 21 seconds ahead of second-placed Hamilton, who was an overwhelming favourite after claiming a record-equalling eighth pole at Albert Park.
While Hamilton admitted he had some “work to do” before the second round at Bahrain on March 31, the Briton felt his title defence had hardly been derailed.
“It was a really solid weekend. I just need to work on my starts,” he said.
Bottas jumped Hamilton at the race start, overtaking his more fancied teammate by the first corner, and didn’t look back.
“I don’t remember when we last saw Lewis Hamilton beaten fair and square like this,” Sky F1’s Paul Di Resta said.
Mercedes later revealed Hamilton had battled on with damage to his car sustained during the race.
“We have discovered damage to Lewis’ floor in the area just in front of the left-rear tyre – there is a chunk of the floor missing,” a team spokesperson said.
But Hamilton offered no excuses, saying he would steel himself for Bahrain.
“Valtteri got a better start. Once we got to the first corner, we held position, we had the front row still,” he said.
“And Valtteri did an exceptional job throughout the race, so congratulations to him and after that it was just about bringing the car home.
“That’s how the game goes and I’ll just train and work hard to try and improve the next time.”