Valtteri Bottas’ rollercoaster season with Mercedes continued in Bahrain when his first career pole was followed by a frustrating race.
Bottas struggled for pace with high tire pressures in the early stages, because an equipment failure on the grid meant that the team was not able to lower them to the optimum level. He was then delayed at his stop under the safety car by an air gun problem and because he had to wait for Daniel Ricciardo to pass.
Later he was twice asked to let teammate Lewis Hamilton past on his way to an eventual third place.
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“I was just told there was a problem with the tire pressures, which I could really feel in the first stint since lap two,” he said. “I was just sliding around with the rear end, struggling to get on power out of the corners, so the pace wasn’t good and Sebastian was really putting pressure and they could undercut us as well and trying to extend the first stint, I just couldn’t keep up with the pace. The tires were just dropping.
“Under safety car on the first stop, there was a problem with the pit stop. We lost a lot of time and maybe it would have been very very close. Maybe I would have been just in front but the team is still investigating what was the issue there. I think there was also some traffic as well because the stop was slow. One of the Red Bulls came into the pit lane and we couldn’t exit immediately so double the time.
“Then on the second stint it was a bit better initially. I think the second stint was not that far off. Still struggling with oversteer but much less than in the first one, and then the last stint, again, used the tools I had to adjust the car balance but still couldn’t get the rear end to work. Really strange race for me and the pace was disappointingly poor for me. Not a good day for me.”
Bottas was frustrated that he had to cede to team orders: “I think honestly as a racing driver it’s maybe the worst thing you want to hear. That’s how it is. For sure I did it because there was potential. Lewis could challenge Sebastian. In the end it didn’t happen but the team tried which I completely understand but personally it is tough but that’s life. I didn’t have enough pace today and we need to find the reasons why that was.”
He’s hoping for better fortunes in Russia, at a track where he has shone in the past.
“There’s no race results as I’ve been hoping for so it’s always the next one. Anyway, it would be the target to have a strong weekend but Sochi has normally been pretty good for me. I really like the track layout and I have always been comfortable there so we will see. It’s a completely different type of track again, completely different kind of temperatures, different asphalt so many different things. We’ll see.”