Bottas confused by pace-hit Australian weekend
By Ian Parkes
Thursday 6th April, 2023 - 8:13pm
Valtteri Bottas has conceded to feeling confused following an Australian Grand Prix weekend in which he was far off the pace in his Alfa Romeo.
Bottas suffered one of the worst qualifying days of his career, finishing 19th and slowest of those to set a lap time given Sergio Perez’s apparent brake issues on his Red Bull which saw the Mexican end up in the gravel early in Q1.
The Finn missed out on a place in Q2 by a quarter of a second, and was 0.157s behind Williams’ Logan Sargeant, who was next ahead of him on the grid.
After starting from the pit lane, Alfa Romeo gambled by pitting Bottas at the end of lap one and switching him onto the hard tyres in a bid to run to the chequered flag.
The plan was scuppered, however, by the chaos that unfolded with the three red flags throughout the event, resulting in Bottas enduring what he has described as “a lonely race”, finishing 11th, whilst team-mate Zhou Guanyu was ninth.
“We obviously started from the pit lane, pitted at the end of the first lap, but then with the red flag, everyone was more or less on the same tyre,” assessed Bottas.
“The pace felt a bit better (than in qualifying) but even with many things happening it just didn’t quite play for me.
“It is confusing. I’m sure there’s a bit of an investigation going on with different things.”
Alfa Romeo to head back to the drawing board
After finishing a superb eighth in the season-opening race in Bahrain, Alfa Romeo and Bottas have since fallen away.
Bottas was last of the 18 classified finishers in Saudi Arabia before enduring his qualifying woe at Melbourne’s Albert Park despite his C43 sporting a new front wing.
Despite conceding to experiencing understeer in the car after qualifying, Bottas said: “But it doesn’t feel like there could be half a second, or something, like where we think we should be. I’m not really sure. It’s a bit odd.”
Assessing the new front wing, Bottas added: “We see everything in the wind tunnel, and it is working as it should.
“I’m not convinced that’s the issue because it did feel like an improvement, and the numbers say that as well.
“Compared to the competition, we still seem a bit slow in the straight, and not bad in the corners.”
Bottas feels his team now has to dig deep into assessing the underlying causes ahead of the next race in Azerbaijan.
“I still feel, if we get everything right, looking at the lap time we should be there or thereabouts to make it to the top 10, but clearly not,” said Bottas.
“I didn’t feel like I could squeeze more lap time, and I’ve had decent sessions (in Melbourne) in the past, and you can feel when you are not far off the ultimate pace.
“But this is way, way behind that, in terms of lap time, from where it should be based on the feeling.
“We’ll make sure to look into that gap before the next race. I am actually glad to have some time before Baku, to get back to the drawing board and get back in a more competitive shape.”
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix takes place on April 28-30.
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