Valtteri Bottas handed penalty for ‘dangerous driving’ as Lewis Hamilton eyes up pole

F1: Hamilton and Bottas take the W12 Mercedes around Bahrain

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Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas has been dealt a blow ahead of the Styrian GP after being handed a three-place grid penalty for “potentially dangerous driving” in the pit lane on Friday.

Bottas was seen pulling away from the Mercedes pit spot during second practice in second gear, but lost the rear of the car on cold tyres and spun around at McLaren’s pit box during the session.

The incident was immediately investigated, with Bottas being summoned to the stewards on Friday evening after the session, with the Finn being handed a three-place grid drop.

The news is a blow to Mercedes who will need Bottas as far up the grid in the title fight against Red Bull, to support his team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the front.

Stewards said Bottas had told them he had tried something different from normal. However, McLaren were heard fuming on the team radio to race director Michael Massi about how dangerous the situation could’ve been.

“When BOT pulled away from his designated pit stop position, he lost control of the car when he turned into the fast lane,” read a stewards’ statement.

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“He oversteered, spun, and came to a stop across the fast lane near the McLaren pits.

“During the hearing BOT stated that in the past they have been losing time in the pit departure. So they tried something new, which was to leave in second gear.

“As a result, the wheel spin was much higher and the result unexpected. Therefore he didn’t manage to control the car properly into the fast lane. This has to be considered as potentially dangerous driving, especially as personnel were around in the pit lane.”

The penalty means Bottas can start no higher than fourth on the grid in Austria, with two penalty points also added to his superlicence.

Ahead of his trip to the stewards, Bottas said: “We tried something different getting out from the box and there were some variables to what we normally do with the wheelspin, so that’s why I spun.

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Bottas also opened up on his contract situation with Mercedes, revealing he was yet to enter discussions.

“First of all, as many know, it’s not a new situation for me. I’ve been many times in this same situation, every year, where I’ve been waiting for my future to be clear,” said Bottas ahead of the first of two races in Austria.

“It’s again the same situation, and it’s nothing new for me, it’s normal.

“Everyone knows how this sport works, if you make results, you will earn your place where you deserve to be.

“If you don’t make results, if the team feels like you need to change the driver, then you change the driver, it’s very simple in this sport and again I’m just going back, but there are 16 races to go.

“The team knows what I am capable of, they know how valuable I’ve been in the recent years for getting the championship, etc.

“It’s not yet time for those discussions, we are now in the beginning of the triple header, two races in two weeks, that’s the focus now.

“I’m sure in the off weeks, we will have time to discuss when is going to be the time.

“That’s the situation and that’s where I’m at, and that’s the situation I need to maximise, it’s simple.”

Max Verstappen leads the way with a 12 point lead over Hamilton in the driver’s standings, with Red Bull coming into the race weekend with a 37 point lead over their rivals Mercedes.

The race gets underway at 2pm on Sunday, with qualifying ahead of the Styrian GP taking place on Saturday afternoon at the same time.

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