'He played it too well' - Bottas rues missed opportunity to jump Hamilton at Belgian GP start
Valtteri Bottas says he did all he could to try to pry the lead of the Belgian Grand Prix from polesitter Lewis Hamilton at the start of the race, but said his team mate’s slow exit from Turn 1 actually hampered his chances of passing him on the first lap.
Bottas got off the line superbly at Spa-Francorchamps, just inches away from Hamilton’s rear wing – but Hamilton’s wheelspin-affected exit out of La Source (Turn 1) left the Finn without enough “momentum” to slipstream Hamilton up Eau Rouge, Raidillon and through the Kemmel Straight into Les Combes.
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“At the start it would have been a big opportunity," Bottas said. "But I think Lewis played it pretty well – he wasn’t too fast out of Turn 1 so I couldn’t really get momentum to get him and also today there was tailwind into Turn 5. So [I had] a bit less of a tow."
In the post-race press conference, he added: “Out of Turn 1 I had a better run than Lewis, so I really had to actually lift not to run into the back of him, and I tried to leave a bit of gap to get a good momentum off the tow – but I was surprised how small the tow effect was today. Maybe the tailwind into Turn 5 made the difference.”
Defending champion and championship leader Hamilton backed up Bottas’s assessment, explaining that he had wheelspin coming out of Turn 1 and that was one of the crucial factors that prevented his team mate from taking the lead.
“It’s a nightmare, that start, because… it’s one of the shortest starts to Turn 1 and we saw out of Turn 1 I had a big snap [of oversteer] trying to get on the gas to get the gap, and, even if I didn’t have that, maybe I would have a car length [over Bottas] but he would have eaten that up on the straight.
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“It worked to my benefit, that snap; he was right up my chuff, I’m sure he had to lift. It meant when we got to the top of the hill, I’m not sure if he had to lift or what but, he didn’t have enough time to slingshot – no shake and bake today – so I’m grateful for that.”
Now 50 points behind Lewis Hamilton in the championship, Bottas has it all to do at Monza next time around to keep his title hopes alive.