‘We should have been on the podium’ says Bottas after tyre issues compound miserable Qatar GP
Valtteri Bottas had a race to forget in Qatar as a grid penalty, a poor start and a puncture saw him finish his day in the garage while the race was still running out on track.
The Finn qualified third on the grid for the first ever Grand Prix in Qatar, but was hit with a three-place grid penalty ahead of the race after he was judged to have ignored yellow flags in qualifying, dropping him to P6.
He then got a nightmare start on the medium compound and was down in P11 on the first lap – which he said afterwards was something of a shock.
"[I was] quite surprised," he said. "On the formation lap I couldn’t really get enough temperature into the tyres and then the race start it was wheel-spinning and the first three corners were pretty much on ice, but then it was getting better and better."
It did indeed get better and better for the Finn. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff got on the radio to urge his driver on, and Bottas responded by clawing his way up the order until he was running P3 – but then his race imploded in spectacular fashion.
Having yet to stop for new tyres, Bottas was forced into pitting on Lap 33 when his front left tyre deflated. He skidded off into the gravel and limped back to the pits, his car sparking along the track as he went. Bottas said he had no clues the tyre was about to cause a problem.
"With the puncture there was no warning, no vibration, no loss of grip, everything was feeling normal and the pace was very consistent and then it just happened. Not the first time to be honest," he said.
After making it to the pits for new tyres, he rejoined the race down in P14, but retired seven laps from the end, explaining that his car was "too damaged - we just wanted to not break it even more."
The ending was even more galling for Bottas as he reckoned he was on for a top three finish at the Losail International Circuit.
"Apart from the poor first lap with quite poor grip, it was going okay once I started to make progress. The pace was good, I honestly think we should have been on the podium today," he said.