SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Valtteri Bottas believes he can still be a Formula One winner this season, even if circumstances mean he has to move over again to help Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton in the championship battle.
The Finn obeyed team orders while leading in Russia last weekend, allowing Hamilton through to win the race and go 50 points clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with five rounds remaining.
Bottas is now 117 points behind Hamilton in the championship, with a maximum 125 still available.
The 29-year-old denied he was now resigned to playing a supporting role to Hamilton until the championship was decided, however.
“Definitely I am still allowed to win. But it will depend on the situation,” Bottas told reporters at the Japanese Grand Prix.
“It will really be case by case,” he said. “The team told me that and that was also what I expected.”
Bottas was heading for a first win of the season in Sochi after starting from pole position but was told to let Hamilton through because the Briton had a blistering tire and was under pressure from Vettel.
“I just need to accept it now that I’m in this situation because of everything that has happened earlier in the season,” said Bottas.
“I cannot fight for the championship anymore, Lewis is, I’m a team player and I’m willing to help,” he added.
Bottas claimed the final race of last season in Abu Dhabi, the third win of his career.
“Last weekend was actually very good for my confidence,” added the Finn. “I feel like a winner, from last weekend, so I’m not going to let this kind of situation do anything negative for me.”
Hamilton has now won five of the last six races and could potentially wrap up the championship by the Mexican Grand Prix later this month. He does not need to win again this season to secure his fifth title.
The Briton, who pulled Bottas up on to the top step of the podium with him in Sochi, said he still felt torn over the result.
“I am definitely split, just like all people have split opinions about it,” he said. “But it’s happened, it’s done and dusted. You have to accept it and move forwards.”
Editing by Alan Baldwin/Keith Weir