Valtteri Bottas already knew during formation lap that his F1 Qatar GP start won’t be good as he adds more along with Toto Wolff.
Bottas was pushed to sixth from third on the grid in F1 Qatar GP, where the even numbered side did not give enough grip in general. That only added to his problems at the start as he couldn’t get the right amount of temperature in his tyres during the formation lap.
A slow getaway meant he bogged down to 11th from sixth and had to fight back. By midway, he positioned himself well for a podium with a direct fight against Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso – one of the reasons why he went deep in the stint.
“It was tricky, there was just no grip at the start and already on the formation lap I could feel that I couldn’t build enough tyre temperature,” said Bottas to written media. “That’s why the start was quite poor and on top of that, being on the dirty side of the track with the mediums, in the first few corners I was just skating around.
“And then in Turn 1-2, sliding everywhere, just couldn’t keep the momentum up. At least things were going a bit better, actually I think the pace was okay and everything was feeling normal until puncture,” summed up Bottas, whose race was undone by the puncture on Lap 33. He had no vibrations on his front-left tyre, but that ended his race.
He did pit to get a new front wing but the damage was too much and to save engine mileage, it was decided to call off his race. “I think it is too broken, too damaged, so they didn’t want to break it more,” said Bottas. “And they saw there was no chance to get to the points so we saved a bit of mileage too.”
Mercedes kind of played with fire but the idea to extend his stint was to cover off Alonso and get into the prime podium position. “Specifically we were trying to clear Alonso,” said Andrew Shovlin. “He was on relatively fresh Hard tyres in our pit window. Valtteri Bottas was faster, he was finding a few tenths a lap and if we had stayed out another three or four laps, we would have been able to build that window to Alonso, pit Valtteri for fresh Hard tyres and drop out in front. That was the plan. As you saw, we had that puncture.
“The timing of that was really unfortunate. Valtteri felt it at about the same time we were seeing it on the data, and this was too late for him to get into the pit lane. So, he had the whole lap to do and when you lose the pressure in one tyre effectively you’ve got a three wheeled car, it’s got no grip in the right-handers and ultimately that in lap was very costly from a race time point of view. But not only did it cost us race time it also cost us performance, and that’s because when you haven’t got the wheel holding the car up the wing is dragging on the road, getting damaged, the floor as well and a lot of the aero furniture around there is getting damaged just from its contact with the road.
“So, ultimately, we had quite a big performance hit from that. When we got out, we could start to establish that in the data. So, over the course of the next few laps, we were understanding how much performance we’ve lost. We were also getting a view of the race picture and it was becoming evident that we weren’t going to get Valtteri back into the points. The damage was too much for him to be able to challenge anyone so that was why we decided to retire the car,” summed up Shovlin.
Before the puncture, it was a punchy race for Bottas especially after he got through the initial cars. In fact, just when the recovery started, Wolff came on the radio to encourage him. The Finn was fine with it post-race but just noted that it came at a time when he was making the move on one of his rivals.
“It is normal, he’s living in the moment, it was normal,” said Bottas. It was just while I was trying to make the move, it was exactly then when I got the call, maybe timing was not right.” Aside the happenings, the Finn did note that he got an explanation on why his pace dropped on Saturday for him to be third and in general how the car has performed.
“I got an explanation, not sure I am going to say the details,” said Bottas. “The car was not quite the same and also not same as Lewis’, so some differences between the cars. It was quite surprising actually how good it was, I mean it seems like tracks with high speed content is pretty good for us, high speed corners as well.
“It gives a bit of hope for Saudi and I think we are in a good run at the moment with good performance and we just need to keep the momentum and good work,” summed up Bottas, who had his bosses backing for the race. Wolff thought it was a hell for the Finn.
“If you can say it about the day in the office, if you can call it hell, that was Valtteri’s day,” said Wolff to written media. “He fell back right at the start right into No Man’s Land. Recovered and was really on course for a podium. That was the first point we had a puncture at the beginning of the lap. Then there was no downforce anymore and we retired it. It doesn’t go any worse. The car was running hot, the car was damaged and it wasn’t fast enough anymore so we decided to preserve the power unit.”
Here’s Toto Wolff on off-track happenings
Here’s Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff on how Qatar went
Here’s Max Verstappen on his start and race
Here’s what Valtteri Bottas said regarding the puncture