By Alan Baldwin
MANAMA (Reuters) - Valtteri Bottas felt the pain of Mercedes team orders for the first time at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday but said he accepted they made sense in the circumstances.
The Finn had started on pole position, a career first, but tyre pressure problems at the start and a general lack of pace left him struggling to challenge Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel after the German had taken the lead.
Twice Bottas let triple champion team mate Lewis Hamilton through to try and take on Vettel, an attempt that ultimately proved in vain as the Briton ended up second and Bottas third.
"As a racing driver it’s maybe the worst thing you want to hear. That’s how it is," Bottas, who joined Mercedes in January as the replacement for retired world champion Nico Rosberg, told reporters.
"When I heard the call initially, for me it made sense. He seemed to have a bit more pace and the gap between me and Sebastian was getting bigger and Lewis was putting pressure on me behind.
"I completely understand the decision from the team to request that, and of course I did it. I did it for the team even though it didn't feel good for me personally."
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said such orders were "a call you don't like to make", with the team's two drivers officially assured of equal terms and treatment despite their track records.
Hamilton has won 54 races while Bottas, who was previously at Williams, has yet to triumph.
Wolff said a failure to react could have cost Mercedes any chance of winning the race and that was the motivation for the call, rather than favouring one driver over the other.
Bottas said he had received reassurance about that afterwards.
"We just had a chat about it and the team again explained all the reasons," he said.
"It didn't work out today, it didn't make a difference if me or Lewis was ahead for the team points but Lewis had a better chance today to battle for the win than I did because I was struggling for pace."
(Editing by Clare Fallon)