Valtteri Bottas admits he needed to make a bigger gain on Lewis Hamilton in the Italian Grand Prix after the championship leader was penalized at Monza.
Hamilton led away from pole position and looked set for a comfortable victory at Monza before he entered the pit lane when it was closed during a safety car period, earning him the mandatory 10-second stop-and-go penalty. Bottas had started from second but slipped back in the pack off the line and struggled to recover, eventually finishing fifth and only two places ahead of Hamilton after his teammate’s fightback.
“I think, as a team, it was definitely a missed opportunity,” Bottas said. “We started one and two, we should have been one and two with the car we had, but it was a crazy race. Yes, a bit unlucky in terms of some cars stopped before the safety car and the red flag, so they got me, but some people were even more unlucky than me.
“It could have been a much worse day. If I were now, before the weekend, in the championship lead, I would have been more satisfied with this, because I would been gaining on the main competitors, but I’m chasing and I need to make bigger gains if I still want to keep the title hopes there. I feel it was a missed opportunity as it could have been a win.”
Bottas nearly jumped the start in Hungary earlier this season and got swamped off the line, and a similar incident occurred on Sunday at Monza. The Finn said he is struggling with part of the Mercedes launch procedure.
“I had an issue with the actual reaction to the lights,” he explained. “We’ve been playing around with the way we do practicing, the protocol we use. We’ve changed that a bit and I feel that has been a disturbance, sometimes, to the actual starts. It has not really been representative in the starts.
“I cannot go into much more detail, but from my side, I nearly went before the lights, but luckily not as much as in one of the first races, so I was a bit late reacting to the lights. Just things still to work on.
“The actual launch, after we drop the clutch, is actually fine, and we’ve made good progress, but just getting the consistency in the reaction to the lights, there’s work to do.”
Despite his tough race in Italy, Bottas moved back into second place in the drivers’ championship after Max Verstappen retired with a power unit issue.