Valtteri Bottas admits he simply didn’t have the pace to be competitive at 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 lower-downforce rear wing on Saturday, while Bottas opted for a higher-downforce setup to try and get heat into his tires to improve grip. That approach failed, and after being unfortunate to not get his final lap of Q3 in, Bottas slipped backwards throughout the race and failed to score for the second consecutive race.
“Mainly the main issue was lack of pace — just not being quick enough,” Bottas said. “Quite early on in the race I could see that I just couldn’t quite match the cars ahead — especially when the Aston Martin (of Sebastian Vettel) was ahead of me, I just couldn’t keep up. Still, I’m confused and it’s really weird.
“I think (the wing) is something we need to review but we know it’s not going to be much — it’s going to be, maximum, one tenth, so I don’t think that’s the key thing, because we started the weekend with the same wing and I’ve been behind Lewis all the time by quite a big margin.”
While Bottas has endured 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 stage.
“I can’t remember having this kind of weekend before. Yes, there were a few weekends when I’ve had bad sessions but always, at some point, I had the pace. But this weekend it’s been all the time like this, and during the whole weekend I still haven’t understood what is wrong.
“I know myself where’s the limit and I cannot go faster than this, and then you’re still six, seven, eight tenths behind. It’s not normal, so it’s something we need to understand before going to France.
“It was a lot more of a struggle than I thought. I thought it should be better than Monaco, but obviously it was far away from that. France is, of course, very different — there’s long corners, high-speed corners — and I think one issue we struggled (in Baku) was tire warm-up, especially on the front axle, so that should be a bit easier in the next race at least, and then we’ll see.
“We must learn from this weekend, but also it’s one to forget.”