Valtteri Bottas says his race pace was improved in 2020, despite suggestions to the contrary, adding that qualifying pace was his most improved area.
The Mercedes F1 driver scored fewer points in 2020 than he did in the first seventeen races of the preceding 2019 season. Bottas also lost ground to teammate Lewis Hamilton by 60 points, when comparing their amassed points in the first 17 races of 2019, and those of a 17-race 2020 season.
Furthermore, Bottas scored two fewer wins in 2020 as opposed to in 2019, granted certain tracks at which he is typically strong, like Suzuka or COTA, were absent from the calendar. Two seasons ago, he won both of the races at these tracks as part of his four wins.
The Finn suggests nonetheless that race pace was an area of improvement for him last year, similarly to his Qualifying form. It was in Qualifying that he believes he developed the most in a season with five pole positions – the same amount as in 2019, but without his traditionally strong tracks and with four fewer races.
“It was extremely close many, many times this year and even in top three as well,” said Bottas. “We had good qualifying battles with Lewis. Obviously in the races more often, as the points show, he got the upper hand. But I can’t really say that qualifying was the biggest thing that I improved.
“I would [also] say actually [that] the race pace overall this year was a little bit better. But obviously, there’s always more work to do,” summed up Bottas. The Finn’s championship position was unchanged in 2020 when compared to 2019, though with one less DNF in the former season when compared to the latter.
It is worth remembering, however, that a third place in the British GP this past season was thrown away by a puncture, by no fault of the Finn’s own. This is something his boss Wolff took into consideration talking about his performances. With George Russell doing well in Sakhir, only made the Finn look much worse but the Austrian didn’t think so.
“What we need to look at, and what we need to work out collaboratively, is that for drivers it’s all about winning the World Championship,” Wolff told Motorsport Network. “And when that has been decided, we need to find out how to keep the energy levels high. But the margin between winning and losing, between hero and zero, is so small in this sport.
“If Bottas would have led the way in the Sakhir GP and won the race, nobody would have criticised him. And that was down to a good or less good start. He was also catching up in the race before our unfortunate pit-stop incident. So we mustn’t swing between exuberance and depression in terms of our judgement on drivers, but kind of see the average and help the drivers to have confidence, to develop their abilities and achieve sustainable performances.
“Valtteri has had highs, but more downs this year than he deserved. And the downs were not due to a lack of performance, the downs were simply unlucky. How many times has he been in the lead of a race that he would have probably won before a red flag was thrown? Or before he suffered from a tyre puncture? Multiple occasions.
“I think he could have had a handful more victories. And the Championship could have stayed more open much longer. He performs on a very high level. There’s no reason to question him if he has those fantastic weekends with top performances,” summed up Wolff.
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