Valtteri Bottas admits he simply did not have the pace to compete in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and says he is still confused by how the race weekend played out for him.
Both Mercedes drivers struggled on Friday, but Lewis Hamilton seemed to make progress with a rear wing with lower downforce on Saturday, while Bottas opted for a higher downforce setup to try to get warmth in his tires to improve grip. This approach failed, and after being unlucky not to get his last round of Q3 in, Bottas slipped backwards through the race and could not score for the second race in a row.
“Mainly the main problem was lack of pace – just not being fast enough,” Bottas said. “Very early in the race I could see that I just could not quite match the cars in front – especially when Aston Martin (from Sebastian Vettel) was in front of me, I just could not keep up. I’m still confused and it’s really weird.
“I think (the wing) is something we need to review, but we know it will not be much – it will be a maximum of one tenth, so I do not think that is the key, because we started the weekend with the same wing, and I’ve been behind Lewis the whole time by quite a margin. ”
While Bottas has been exposed to tough weekends in the past, he says Baku is unique in the sense that he was unable to show any potential for better performance at any point.
“I do not remember having this weekend before. Yes, there were a few weekends where I had bad sessions, but always at some point I had the pace. But this weekend it’s been like that all along, and over the whole weekend I still have not understood what’s wrong.
“I know myself where the limit is, and I can not go faster than this, and then you are still six, seven, eight tenths behind. It’s not normal, so it’s something we need to understand before we go to France.
“It was a lot more fighting than I thought. I thought it was going to be better than Monaco, but of course it was far away from that. France is obviously very different – there are long corners, fast corners – and I think one problem we struggled with (in Baku) was heating tires, especially on the front axle, so it should be a little easier in the next race in at least, and then we’ll see.
“We have to learn from this weekend, but it’s also one to forget.”