Valtteri Bottas says Mercedes endured a “nightmare” pit stop incident that cost him the chance to of fighting George Russell for victory in the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Russell had taken the lead at the start but Bottas had started to eat into his teammate’s lead after the first round of pit stops. It all went wrong for Mercedes when it tried to double stack its cars during a safety car period but a radio communication error saw some of Bottas’ tires fitted to Russell’s car. Russell had to do a full lap and then pit again for new tires, while Bottas was therefore unable to change tires at all and endured a long pit stop before plummeting down the field to finish eighth on the road.
“What’s the feeling when you come into the pits and then you leave it with the same old tires that you came in and lose positions?” Bottas said. “Obviously, a big mistake from the team that will analyze and learn from. I think that was the main thing. Then it was a nightmare — I was on the old hard tire, that had already lost a lot of temperature in the pit stop, against the guys that were on fresh medium tires, so I was like a sitting duck. It was a pretty nightmarish situation.”
Bottas felt he would have been able to fight Russell for the win without that pit stop error, as he was more comfortable on the hard compound in the second half of the race.
“At the start, the initial part was OK — I hit the clutch target as planned, but suddenly I had a spike in wheelspin; we still don’t know the reasons why, maybe a torque spike or something just before shifting to second, so that downgraded the shift to second gear. That’s still to be reviewed, but it was already unfortunate.
“The car was pretty understeery for me, so I decided to go with less front flap in the first stint but it was maybe not ideal. Into Turn 4 and then 7 and 8 I struggled quite a bit with the front end of the car, so I struggled to really get close and it actually seemed to be a difficult track to follow. Once you were three seconds behind you were always drifting in the corners, but it was a lot better on the hard tire.
“I wasn’t surprised because I knew that in the first stint, with the medium tire, track position would be important, so it was unfortunate to lose that. But on the second stint I was catching him at a pretty decent rate, so I knew everything was still open and, most likely, we could have a big battle.
“Nothing really surprising there. He obviously did a mistake-free race, but that was nothing unexpected. I still believed everything was to be played for, especially towards the end of the stint on the hard tires.”