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‘It’s a concern’ – Bottas and Zhou hope Kick Sauber can fix ‘critical issue’ after second pit stop error in Jeddah

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JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Kick Sauber C44

There was a case of deja vu for Kick Sauber during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix when the squad again suffered a slow pit stop, marking the second consecutive race in which they have experienced an issue in the pits.

Zhou Guanyu had been one of four drivers to stay out on track amid an early Safety Car as the race unfolded in Jeddah, before becoming the last car in the field to pit on Lap 43 of 50. Unfortunately a problem with a cross-threaded wheel nut resulted in a lengthy stop, causing Zhou to drop to the back of the field behind team mate Valtteri Bottas.

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With Bottas having suffered a similar issue last time out in Bahrain, Zhou admitted that it was disappointing for the team to have this happen again.

“Everything was going well [in the race],” Zhou explained later on. “Difficult race at the beginning, managing a lot the engine [temperature]. Then [I had] very fast pace on the mediums, considering how much I have to lift off for the temperature.

“After that pit stop unfortunately it’s done. Frustrating of course, it happens already twice for us as a team. We need to improve, that’s clear, and yeah, the race was basically gone after that.”

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‘We need to improve, that’s clear’ – Zhou downbeat after tough race for Kick Sauber

While there were positives for Zhou and the squad to take from the weekend in Saudi Arabia – barring a crash during Friday’s Free Practice 3 session – the Chinese driver admitted that it was still too much of a challenge to make up ground in the race following the pit stop delay.

“From my side, I think of course this weekend, with the mistake in FP3 [it was] compromised, but seems to be from my side [that] racecraft, everything, has picked up massively compared to the last few years, which is good,” he added.

WATCH: Heavy crash for Zhou brings out red flags during FP3 in Saudi Arabia

“But, still, when we lost a lot on the pit stop, it’s very difficult to catch up again.”

It was also a difficult day for Bottas. The Finn opted to start the race on the soft tyre but struggled to make his strategy work after switching to the hard compound, resulting in another pit stop later in the event to bolt on more softs.

While this improved the performance of the car, Bottas had lost too much time and ended the Grand Prix just ahead of his team mate in P17.

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‘It’s a concern for sure’ – Bottas pressing Kick Sauber to fix ‘critical issue’ after another pit stop problem

“Tough race. We didn’t have the pace that we were really hoping for and what we calculated,” Bottas reflected afterwards. “Especially on the hard compound, we couldn’t make it really work and maintain a good pace, and that was the biggest issue. We tried to go for the soft in the end, it was better but then we had to do two stops.”

The 10-time race winner also called on Kick Sauber to assess their pit stop problems after two incidents in as many weekends.

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the action from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as Verstappen takes the win and Bearman shines

“It’s a concern, for sure, and same issue [each time],” said Bottas. “Of course in one week we couldn’t change too many things, so now we have at least two weeks before the next race. But, yeah, it’s a critical issue and the team is on it.”

The team will be hoping for better when the F1 season heads to the Australian Grand Prix, which will take place from March 22-24.

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