Bottas left ruing late-race mistake and Safety Car in Miami that cost him shot at P5
Valtteri Bottas is enjoying a purple patch of form, coming home in the points yet again for Alfa Romeo at the Miami Grand Prix and continuing his record of scoring every time he’s seen the chequered flag. But while seventh in Florida was a solid result, for the second race running, the Finn felt he left some points on the table.
Last time out in Imola, a slow pit stop cost Bottas the chance to chase down the Mercedes of George Russell – and it was the Englishman who again proved to be a thorn in his side in Miami. Bottas was running fifth for much of the race, comfortably keeping the Mercedes of both Lewis Hamilton and Russell at bay.
But the late Safety Car nullified his gap to his former team mate – and handed the man who replaced him at Mercedes fresh rubber on which to attack, Russell the only one of the three to pit for new tyres.
“We were penalised by the timing of the Safety Car,” Bottas said after the race. “I was managing the gap over Lewis and P5 would have been possible, but once the race was neutralised, the gap was gone and George was on fresh tyres behind us, so keeping this place would have been difficult.”
While post-Safety Car, Bottas may have struggled to keep Russell at bay, such was the discrepancy between his old hard tyres and the Mercedes man’s fresh medium ones, he might have succeeded in keeping Hamilton behind. But the Finn didn’t help himself with a moment in the final corner on Lap 49 of 57, where he got onto the marbles, ran wide and grazed the barriers, allowing both Mercedes to shoot past and demoting Bottas to his ultimate P7 finishing position.
“I was trying to brake late to defend my position, overshot the braking point slightly and sadly the nature of the track here means that if you go off the line a little and into the dirt, you’re off and you hit the wall,” he explained. “I was lucky nothing broke on the car and I could continue.”
With only a handful of laps left and no fresh rubber at his disposal, Bottas did well to hold onto seventh, and it shows the progress Alfa Romeo have made this year that team boss Fred Vasseur said he was almost “a bit disappointed” with the result.
The disappointment was far more justified on the other side of the garage as Zhou Guanyu was forced into early retirement with a water leak. He had managed to make up places at the start and was running P14 when the team called him back to the pits.
“It’s frustrating, of course, but it’s part of racing,” Zhou said. “My short race wasn’t bad, I was three places up from where I started when I retired and I felt the car was really good.”
While Zhou hasn’t managed to get in the points since the opening race of the season, he’s been close – finishing P11 in Saudi Arabia and Australia, and says he just needs to “put everything together across the weekend” to get the car back where it deserves to be.