Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2021

“Really weird” lack of pace due to car fault or tyres, Bottas believes

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Valtteri Bottas says there was no obvious cause for his poor pace in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after finishing 12th.

The Mercedes driver qualified a lowly 10th, eight places behind team mate Lewis Hamilton, and finished two places lower despite quicker rivals ahead hitting trouble.

Earlier in the weekend Bottas said there was something “fundamentally wrong” with the car’s performance. He remained baffled by his predicament after Sunday’s race.

“It was actually quite similar feeling to [Saturday], and on Friday really the main issue was lack of pace and just not being quick enough.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2021
Bottas finished behind the Alfa Romeos
“Quite early on in the race I could see that just couldn’t match the cars ahead. Especially when one of the Aston Martins was ahead of me, I just couldn’t keep up. So, I’m confused and it’s really weird.”

The Mercedes cars ran different rear wings in Baku. But Bottas does not believe the variation between his car and and Lewis Hamilton’s accounted for much of the gap between them.

“I think it’s something we need to review, but we know it’s not going to be much, it’s going to be maximum one tenth,” he said. “So I don’t think that’s the key thing, because we started the weekend with the same wing and still I’ve been all the time behind Lewis, [with] quite a bit margin.”

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“I can’t remember this kind of weekend,” he admitted. “There’s been weekends that I’ve had bad sessions, but always at some point I’ve had pace.

Mick Schumacher, Haas, Baku City Circuit, 2021
Pictures: 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
“But this weekend it’s been all the time. And still during the weekend I haven’t understood what is wrong and I know myself when there’s a limit and I can’t go faster, and then you’re still six, seven, eight tenths behind. It’s not normal. So something we need to understand before going to France.”

Mercedes will conduct a thorough examination of Bottas’ car. He said “the most logical reason” for his poor weekend would be “if we would find something in the car, but if not, then the only thing it must be the tyres.

“But we’re running the same tyre pressures and same temperatures. So I’m keen to find out, but at the moment, I don’t know.”

He is hopeful that a move to more conventional circuits following races in Monaco and Baku will play in the team’s favour. “I thought it should be better than Monaco, but obviously [we’re] just far away from that,” he said. “France, of course, is really, really different. It’s very long corners, high speed corners.”

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2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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46 comments on ““Really weird” lack of pace due to car fault or tyres, Bottas believes”

  1. Tommy Scragend
    8th June 2021, 9:32

    He said “the most logical reason” for his poor weekend would be “if we would find something in the car”

    Can I suggest the first place to look is behind the wheel?

    1. Yeah, I wanted to say “If they found someone in the car” instead.

  2. I think we’re seeing Bottas -1.0 this year.

    So far he can only score when Hamilton wins.

    Maybe he’s getting ready for retirement. Or swap with Russell.

    1. If football’s Mourinho is the Special One, Bottas should be the Negative One. Evan though he’d obviously not say it.

  3. I think a Russel – Bottas swap next year would be a good thing for all parties. Williams needs an experienced driver to lift up the team.

    1. Absolutely. Everyone wins, even Bottas since he wont need to live up to something he was never cut out for. Lewis will find himself the Alonso in this relationship with Russell however. I expect team spirit to be out of the window as soon as George enters.

  4. It seems Toto is laying the foundation for replacing.
    The way he layed the blame for the 48hour pitstop on Bottas.
    The lack of support.
    Bottas 1.0 combined with Toto in panic mode.
    But do not forget the tension in the team as a result of budget cap. Until now all errors could be met with lots of time and money. Not so anymore. It seems Toto is not so good in these trying times.

    1. Yes, if you have the dominant car and the largest budget it isnt that difficult to win it turns out. Now that there is a hint towards a level playing field we get to see the real Toto, Mercedes and Lewis.

      1. What did we see in 2017 and 2018 then? The real Toto and Lewis?

  5. I read somewhere that Bottas made a mistake by staying in Mercedes. He has said it many times that he is becoming stronger, learning and also fixing this “something.” A move to somewhere else in 2018 would have been a better option. Maybe Renault, Mclaren etc even though there wasn’t many vacant seats available.
    Now it is confirmed that in a season he can’t beat Hamilton in a same car. He still belongs to F1 but in where is the question?

    1. Williams is fine for Bottas. If it wasnt for Toto he would have never left that team

  6. The only problem is Bottas himself. He is only still in the car cos Toto is his manager, and he always finds an excuse for when he underperforms.

    1. He hasn’t been his manager since at least 2017

  7. I see a lot of bashing of Bottas in the comments thread. I find it troublesome to reach these kinds of conclusions myself. Just a quick glance at 2020 qualy results, Bottas beat HAM 5 out of 16 times [1]. I’m not saying that Bottas in any way is better than Hamilton, he isn’t, but what many say in this comment thread is, to me, out of proportion. Let’s be honest, the decline in performance over the last two races from Bottas can’t just be a result of Bottas forgetting how to drive an F1 car.

    1. Sadly, you don’t win anything on a Saturday.

      F1 is about racing and Valtteri is not an out-and-out racer.

      1. He’s not allowed to be in that team as it is now.
        If anyone thinks the two drivers are being treated equally and given the same resources and opportunities, they are only kidding themselves.

        1. That shouldnt stop him for overtaking other cars (bar Lewis’ one)

          1. Exactly!

            Unlike Lewis, he struggles to work his way through the field. When he does he’s prone to errors.

        2. It’s in Mercedes and Hamilton’s interests for Bottas to be up at the front, as we have seen with Perez.

        3. And yet he outqualified Hamilton often.

          It’s the same machinery, it just happens to have one of the worst sunday drivers in it

    2. @albertc Correct. Just the race before Bottas almost got pole position and was on for 2nd when his world champion team mate was nowhere

      1. Agreed. Something is clearly not right with the car or the tyres and i feel once we are on normal tracks he will perform as expected…close to the front. However the pace difference between him and hamilton the last two races is quite bizzarre and hoping they find out what it is. Keep wondering if they were too reliant on the DAS last year for getting and keeping the tyres in the window and suffering as a result this time around.

  8. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    8th June 2021, 10:49

    A broken man. It’s not pleasant to witness, similar to Seb last year at Ferrari.

    1. Doug Webster
      8th June 2021, 14:13

      Yes. Exactly.

      I’m not sure when he wasn’t broken, but he’s become something of a sad charactor at this point. He needs to go somewhere where his best effort means something. That is not Merc.

      The fact that Russell is long overdue for a promotion makes their decision for 22 seem straightforward.

  9. I agree with @rdotquestionmark, it’s isn’t pleasant to see someone struggle. I can’t help but think that had his wheelnut come off fine in Monaco and he’d secured a 2nd place finish, that the criticism would have been less harsh.

    But it’s hard to disagree with the comments about him not being an out-and-out racer. When he’s behind a car or a group of cars, he stays there whereas other (“racier”) drivers find a way past. Racing and driving fast are 2 different things. Bottas can certainly drive fast, but wheel to wheel racing is an “area for development” (as a life coach would say!).

    1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      8th June 2021, 11:03

      That’s a good point actually, his luck has been like Mr Bean. He must wonder if he’s cursed.
      He lacks a killer instinct but he was really good at Williams and was a solid number 2 to Lewis for a lot of years, occasionally outperforming him. There’s a lot to be said for that.

      1. The missus and I have said for the last few years that Bottas has been great at what he had to do – be a wingman to Lewis, bring in podiums and be there so Mercedes had strategies to play with. I’m not saiyng he was a de-facto number 2, but he settled into it. Had he been the champion/leader then he could have pursued that.

        At the minute he’s not doing that, but Mercedes is having a very tricky few races. If things get back to normal for them, and if he maintains strong finishes then he’ll be back to doing what’s needed. If Lewis decides to call it a day and leave, or if Bottas fails to be a reliable wing man, then his chances of being there in 2022 look pretty feeble.

        Also, it looks like Red Bull might have finally found someone who is a wingman to their number one. So perhaps Mercedes won’t have the strategic advantage of having 2 up front against a single Red Bull. Maybe they’ll need someone with more race-class who makes opportunities.

        1. But Bottas HAS been a good wingman and a huge part of Mercedes winning these last years, with 2 cars in the front dictating strategies unlike Red Bull where there is huge gap between the drivers and Verstappen fighting alone.

          If Hamilton can have bad races in this car, then so would a Russell or whatever, so don’t see why they would change out Bottas now.

    2. @geekzilla9000 Not his best skill, but racecraft is also related to position and speed. As in not being faster to challenge, and not getting tyres in best working range. Like no one questioning Hamilton overtaking skills being stuck Perez a whole race, even in Baku which is a good overtaking track, and having a top speed advantage.

  10. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    8th June 2021, 11:13

    I watched some of his onboard camera, one where he lost four places at a restart in four corners and every time he was passed he moved off the racing line and the car behind just went straight through – and then he did it again and again, just leaving the door wide open for them. It was like he was getting blue flags, he just hopped out of the way to give them the better line and didn’t even try to defend. No doubt the car was uncharacteristically slow but why did it make it so easy for them? Like even if there’s a critical car issue – which this had to be as there’s no way he’s this poor, he still didn’t seem like he was even bothering to try. That’s more concerning than the lack of pace to me.

  11. Mercedes will pay a price for choosing BOT over RUS. Because, this time, RBR’s other pilot is not a rookie. I am not talking about this race. Overall, he is not doing a good job in this season.

    1. Yes, it might be that Toto will have to conclude he was 1 year late with the switch to Russell. First signs were Max starting to finish before Bottas too many times vs what the Mercedes was capable to (coming in second, just behind Lewis). But he prioritised team spirit (because George will attack Lewis and will probably occasionally beat him too). Lets see whether Perez can spoil the WCC for them. Bottas is very consistent when given a good car, so this might just wotk out the way Toto planned it. 2022 he will need to make some changes though

    2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      8th June 2021, 15:10

      Other than that one outing, I still am not as convinced about Russell as others are. About a 3rd of his career race starts, he has lost positions off the start line. he is one of the worst starters on the grid. He is great in qualifying, but Latifi has actually sometimes not that far off him on race day. Monaco for example Latifi was catching up and hung around 2 seconds behind. I think Russell would get better than Bottas in time, but overall, I am not convinced he would instantly be better for Mercedes than Bottas has been.

      1. Also I think that he wouldn’t perform well since first race like last year. All pilots that changed cars struggled. Changing pilots prematurely could hurt more than solve. Bottas can do quite good races. But also this year is probably his worst year looking just at his pace against Hammilton. Maybe he isn’t finding how to drive this Mercedes. I’ve seen on last 35 years that some pilots did great stints on one tire, changed and did horrible. The changes in the floor have that effect too.

        1. I’d say innocent until proven guilty, as in given that race russel is a top driver until the opposite is proven.

          Cause like it or not in f1 you don’t always get the chance to prove you’re a top driver if the car is bad enough, russel proved he at least deserves 5 races in a proper car, even just a ferrari of this year, and then based on what he does there, we’ll see if he’s a verstappen etc. or not.

  12. The fact Bottas’ best year for Mercedes (relative to Hamilton) was his first year with the team, it really doesn’t seem like he’s been moving forward much. 2018 was a disaster, 2019 was again near 2017 levels, but 2020 and 2021 so far have just gone backward again. Rosberg was close enough to Hamilton that if the right luck fell his way (like it did in 2016), he would have a chance of winning. With Bottas, Hamilton could have terrible luck and still comfortably beat his teammate in the standings. He has no hope of ever achieving a world title while he is at Mercedes. If he becomes the lead driver of another team, who knows, he might just get into the right car as Button did in 2009. Instead of inevitably being replaced by Russell, it would be better for him if he was the one who walked away from Mercedes. There are potential seats at Alfa Romeo and Williams that would be more suited to him, where he would actually be accepted as the lead driver of the team. It’s time to move on from Mercedes.

    1. I do wonder at that a bit; what if in the middle of 2015 Ferrari had been as strong as, say, in 2020, now we had Rosberg and Hamilton trading races, and in 2016 Rosberg profited in several races that Hamilton had an issue – had another fast team/driver been in the mix, things might have looked a bit different. But, Rosberg in the races seemed a lot more like an equal than Bottas manages.

    2. Indeed, bottas would need a schumacher 99 + a dominant car.

  13. Take a look at the warm-up lap and watch the merc’s onboard, weaving from side to side there is very little suspension movement, now watch the RB’s, loads of movement, remarkably different setups.

    1. Doug Webster
      8th June 2021, 14:19

      The balance of ‘gentle on tires’ and ‘can’t get temp into the tires’ seems like a really tricky compromise across the whole of the season.

      It’s also sort of a boring talking point for as prominent as it is these days…but F1 is often about minutia and if we weren’t talking about tires we would probably be talking about barge boards, end plates, or some other thing that’s not objectively interesting. We only get the blown diffuser and the f-duct once in a while.

  14. The three big weaknesses Bottas has and always had are tyre management which often leads to bad race pace, dealing with traffic and driving around a problem with the car. Plus a lot of bad luck of course…
    If he now starts to qualify badly as well I really can’t see him in a Mercedes much longer because finally they need a capable no. 2 and since 2017 Bottas stadily declined…

  15. It’s over.

  16. I think if we continue to see Perez put in solid performances either as a “rear gunner” for Max, winning races when Max or Lewis have a bad weekend, or just simply taking more points than Bottas we’ll see a driver swap at the summer break. While that may not be what Merc has done in the past, Red Bull are stronger than they have been in years and Merc finds themselves in new territory. If they want to win either the WDC or WCC they need a solid number two. Bottas being in 6th in the WDC, with Perez in in 3rd is a bad sign for Bottas’ future with Merc. Six races is enough to see trends emerge and the trend for Bottas for this season is that he is not enough to match Perez as a number 2 for a world championship team.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      8th June 2021, 15:24

      If Bottas and Perez had had equal luck, Bottas would still be ahead of him in the standings though. Bottas hasn’t been worse than Perez overall this season.

      1. Absolutely, the luck factor can’t be ignored, but I agree with the general comment about replacing bottas: if mercedes find themselves risking both championships, swapping bottas with russel will obviously not damage them in the constructors’ since russel proved to be stronger than bottas (prob hamilton level really), and it might also help in the drivers’ given a faster driver can take more points out of the red bulls.

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