Switch to older engine cost Bottas “at least two tenths” in qualifying

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by and

Valtteri Bottas says he lost “at least two tenths” of a second in qualifying after he switched to an older power unit due to reliability concerns.

In his final qualifying session as Mercedes driver, Bottas was only able to manage sixth on the grid as he was out-qualified by both championship contenders, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, as well as Lando Norris, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz Jnr.

Bottas believes there were two main contributing factors behind why he was only able to secure a third row start while team mate Hamilton will line up on the front row.

“I kind of hit a lap time limit,” said Bottas. “In Q2, I think I did my best lap time and I could never improve that. It felt like the more I tried, it felt like the set-up didn’t have any more in it.

“On my car, I went for quite a soft set-up, mechanically, and I feel it’s really good for the race, but I was hoping it should be still okay for the qualifying. But the grip was improving quite a lot, so that’s one thing.

“One factor is that we had to change to an older power unit for today, which I knew was, compared to yesterday, maybe at least two tenths [slower]. We were more confident with this power unit for the reliability.”

After Red Bull successfully executed a planned slipstream boost for Verstappen with Perez slowing down along the straight to provide a tow for his team mate, Bottas says Mercedes never considered a similar tactic themselves.

“We never planned for that, because normally it can go wrong – at least for one of the drivers,” Bottas explained.

“We just focussed on the out-laps and being in a good rhythm. But, to be honest, the Red Bull found a bit more in Q3 than we thought they would. So that was a bit of a surprise.”

Verstappen’s pole position for tomorrow’s championship-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix came with the caveat that the Red Bull will start the race on soft tyres, whereas Hamilton will have the medium tyres for the first stint. Bottas says he believes the mediums are the preferable option for the start of the race.

“After third practice, the plan was always to start with the medium,” he said.

“We think it’s better for us, at least the first pit window is going to be quite a bit bigger. So if we want or need to go long, that’s an opportunity. If you’re on the soft, they will start degrading pretty quickly.”

Bottas may therefore come play a decisive role if Verstappen emerges from the pits behind him during the race. “I’m ready to sacrifice my optimal race because we really want both titles and I want us to get both titles before I go,” he said. “So I’m definitely going to do my part for both of the titles.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Browse all 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix articles

8 comments on “Switch to older engine cost Bottas “at least two tenths” in qualifying”

  1. On my car, I went for quite a soft set-up, mechanically, and I feel it’s really good for the race, but I was hoping it should be still okay for the qualifying. But the grip was improving quite a lot, so that’s one thing.

    I forgot that Pirelli warned us about the kerbs. The only problem with soft setups is that they don’t allow that much tyre warm up.

  2. The Mercedes engine seems to buckle massively under Honda pressure.
    It’s on the same level Renault was some years ago.

  3. The more usual approach is to fit a newer power unit in order to improve reliability. Not fit an older unit.
    Something doesn’t sound quite right. Maybe it was the sound that instigated the swap.?

    1. Bottas already have a pool of 6 engines. So “old” in his case will mean two races old.
      The special engine they use for Lewis Is obviously unique.

  4. I don’t think Mercedes able to sorted this issue in short period of time (the engine concern surfaces I think on October?), so Mercedes will stuck with similar engine issues for the next few years due to engine freeze?

    1. Red Bull gained a lot from their “reliability” update. Not only does the engine last more races, they can run it harder too. As Ferrari put it, that upgrade allowed Red Bull to extract the full performance as demonstrated during the pre season testing.

      Maybe Mercedes can also get a similar “reliability” update. Especially since they actually seem to have reliability issues.

      1. The new and obviously unique motor Lewis uses seems to deliver a lot of power. Not sure if it’s legal, because all merc customers should receive the same configuration. It’s obvious Lewis engine is way stronger then the others. Mercedes and reliability are not a good fit anymore. A bit 2017 Renault style.

  5. Two tenths? What about the other seven tenths?

    Be so glad to see George in that Merc next year giving Ham hell, instead of these weak attempts from Bott. Ham has had championships on a plate since Nico left.

Comments are closed.