Bottas blames lights on steering wheel dash for race-wrecking bad start
After missing out on pole by 0.1s to Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton on Saturday, Valtteri Bottas had spoken of the crucial ‘drag race’ into Turn 1 between the two Silver Arrows drivers at the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix. But in the event that failed to materialise, as Bottas made the worst possible getaway, with the Finn later blaming the lights of his dash for distracting him at the crucial moment.
There had been drama before the race as Max Verstappen crashed on the way to the grid in the greasy conditions – and more drama followed as Bottas misjudged the start lights going out, moving forward before stopping immediately and then badly bogging down when the race got underway, mere moments later.
Bottas escaped punishment for a jump start, but having dropped to P6 on the opening lap, it was then a race of recovery for the Finn, who eventually battled back up to third place at the flag. But after the race he only had the start on his mind.
“It was pretty bad race to be honest for me,” he said. “Obviously starting second I aimed to win the race, but lost it at the start. I reacted to a light on my dash that went off. I don’t know what it was, so something changed on my dash and I reacted to that instead of the start light and I had to do the start again and lost it there.”
Expanding on what had happened in the post-race press conference, Bottas added: “I believe it was the main page of the dash changed a different colour or something - a really bright colour.
“So that’s all that was needed for me to react. I thought the lights went off, and anyway I was kind of half seeing the start lights because of the halo and the position I was in.
“It was an odd situation and I’m sure we’re going to review the onboard [camera] and what exactly happened. I will make sure nothing is changing in the dash anymore at a crucial moment, because we don’t want any distraction like that in a sensitive moment.”
Having battled his way back up the order, Bottas closed to around a second of Verstappen in second place. But with his tyres past their best, Mercedes rolled the dice, bringing Bottas in for hard tyres with 20 laps to go. Bottas roared back, latching onto Verstappen’s tail with two laps to go, but in the end ran out of laps to launch a serious attack.
“I was fighting to the end,” said Bottas. “It was close with Max but we needed one more lap. I think it was worth a gamble [to make an extra stop] - I think it really gave me that difference in tyre life, that didn’t quite pay off today.”
Bottas had come into the race in Hungary six points clear of Hamilton at the top of the drivers’ standings. He leaves five behind. Ahead of the season Bottas had highlighted the need for him to be ultra-consistent in order to have a chance of beating Hamilton to the title. When asked if this race, then, had been a blow in his aspirations he said: “[The start] made this weekend one of those inconsistent weekends that you try to avoid, but it has happened, so what can I do? Learn from this, move on.
“I’m still very much in the game. Just one bad race and if you end up on the podium with a bad race you are still ok. Nothing is lost yet. There is no point in me talking any hit in the confidence or anything that I’m doing. Just a bad weekend, I’m not going to let I affect me. Move on and try to get some points in Silverstone.”