‘I felt like a sitting duck’ – Bottas bemused by lack of pace after ‘not fun’ Baku weekend
Valtteri Bottas’ miserable start to 2021 continued at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with the Finn actually falling from his P10 grid slot to finish 12th at the flag. And he was left lamenting a perplexing lack of pace in his Mercedes W12 – and looking to “move on quickly” from a nightmare few days in Baku.
The writing had been on the wall for Bottas that this was not going to be his weekend at the end of Friday, after he wound up P16 in Free Practice 2, two seconds off the ultimate pace and a second off his team mate Lewis Hamilton.
In the circumstances, Bottas did well to make it to Q3, but could only claim 10th on the grid as Hamilton took second.
But his race unravelled through sheer lack of pace, Bottas failing to make progress early on, while he dropped a full four places at the Lap 36 Safety Car restart – before Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi added insult to injury by breezing past Bottas on Lap 38, as the Finn eventually finished down in 12th, three places up on his team mate after a rare error from the seven-time champion.
“It was not fun,” said Bottas of his race. “It’s been actually quite a similar feeling to [qualifying] and I don’t quite understand. Clearly, we don’t have enough pace. I could see in the beginning of the race, it was just tricky to keep up with the cars ahead, and especially – I think it was one of the Aston Martins, and they were clearly faster.
“One of the weak points for our car this season has been tyre warm-up and on the Safety Car restart, I felt like a sitting duck and there were cars coming [past me] left and right,” he added. “So I think tyre warm-up is one big thing, especially on the front axle, but other than that, even when the tyres were operating well after 10 laps or something, we were still not fast enough, and it’s been the same feeling all weekend.”
This continues to be Bottas’ worst start to a season since he joined Mercedes in 2017, as he has now failed to score in the past two Grands Prix – after he was forced to retire when his wheel got stuck on the car in his pit stop at Monaco – and sits sixth in the drivers’ standings, behind the likes of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
And Bottas – who’d suggested after qualifying that an issue with his W12 chassis might be behind his lack of performance in Baku – said he was keen to move on from a disastrous weekend.
“It’s important to forget [this weekend], because I know that for me personally, this is not my performance level, so I need to move on quickly from this,” said Bottas, who took pole and victory at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix when F1 last raced here in 2019. “It’s quite a unique track and for me, for sure we need to understand why it wasn’t great in terms of performance.”
Meanwhile, his team boss Toto Wolff offered a succinct summary of his driver’s struggles in Baku, telling the media: “The car was nowhere, and when the car is nowhere in a city circuit, you lose all confidence.”