Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas admits his race was “lonely” after a botched pit stop in the Bahrain GP which tarnished his chances of contending.
Bottas did not have a solid start to F1 Bahrain GP when he fell behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc initially. The Finn had to fight him off and retake third as he then set on a charge of his teammate Lewis Hamilton. Around the first stop and post it, he was still close to both the British racer and also Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Bottas then pitted on Lap 30 for the final time, one lap after teammate Hamilton had peeled off the road. Sitting stationary for over ten seconds in a botched stop, the Finn fell far behind the leaders and into the clutches of the upper midfield, even falling behind McLaren’s Lando Norris and Leclerc.
Though he dispatched both Norris and Leclerc with ease, Bottas says it left him in a ‘lonely’ place, adding that he was stripped of any opportunity to contend for a victory. “I had a slow pit stop and that took away any opportunities but I think at times the pace was good but yeah, disappointed,” Bottas began in the press conference.
“When you lose ten seconds or something like that, in a close battle against Max and Lewis, it’s going to be hard to regain that – but of course you don’t think about things negatively. You try to keep pushing and try to make the most out of the situation – but there wasn’t really many things happening, so it was a bit lonely. Lonely race after that.
“We stopped at the end to get the fastest lap, which we did, so it’s an extra point, which can always help in the future. I feel like we were just a bit unlucky to today with that. Otherwise, could have been nice to be in the mix at the end to battle – but it wasn’t my day today,” said Bottas, who was willing to admit it was a positive weekend for Mercedes.
The team, expected to struggle comparatively to Red Bull in Sunday’s opening round, managed an underdog win via an ingenious strategy with Hamilton, and Bottas’ third-place finish was enough to give them an early lead in the constructors’ championship with a bonus fastest lap point. This, the 31-year-old argues, must be viewed as a success.
“If we were told in winter testing that we’re going to be two cars in the top three, one of them winning the race and getting more points than Red Bull, we definitely would have taken this,” said Bottas. “So, yeah, as a team, strong performance overall – but there’s still things we need to do better and we can do better – but it’s a start and it’s early, early days in the season.”
Despite the frustrations of Bottas, team boss Toto Wolff denies that they had any other options strategically, suggesting the nine-time race winner’s efforts were hampered by a poor start which saw him drop to fourth. “The outcome we wouldn’t wish for was that he lost a position at the start of the race and he kind of couldn’t recover the gap to the two guys in front,” Wolff began.
“The pitstop that was there to undercut Max and I think we would probably have been successful, but we had a problem with the right front wheel gun. And then I don’t know what other strategy we could have run. The one stop was clearly not possible.
“The medium wouldn’t have made it to the end, the hard in the middle stage was running out of performance. There was no other option available. I totally understand the frustration in the car when you have limited information and say ‘I think we could have done something else,” Wolff added.
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