Valtteri Bottas says he had no warning that his tire was going to fail when running third in the Qatar Grand Prix.
Teams were pushing the limits of the tires in terms of their wear life, because degradation levels were low as Pirelli had brought the hardest three compounds in its range to the Losail International Circuit. Bottas had completed 32 laps of the race on his set of mediums that he also qualified on when his front left tire failed, resulting in him going off the track and causing damage to the car that eventually led to his retirement.
“I don’t really know what happened, there was no warning, no vibration, the pace was still consistent, grip was still OK and it just happened,” Bottas said. “Initially I thought it was the wind getting stronger down the pit straight, because I felt the car was getting a bit sideways, but then I got the puncture in the first corner and, obviously, it was in the most unlucky point, just after the pit exit.”
Bottas was the first driver to suffer a failure during the race but not the last, as both Williams drivers and Lando Norris also suffered issues with their front lefts. The Finn expects discussions to take place in the next driver’s briefing about the situation.
“I’m sure it is, because it’s not the first time it happens, so I’m sure it will be raised,” Bottas said.
“There was nothing like before, when we’d start to get the vibration and we’d be monitoring the vibration metrics, but now there was nothing, it was feeling quite normal and then it goes… We knew there was stress for the tires but normally you get the vibration before and we can monitor it a bit.”
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The retirement capped a frustrating weekend for Bottas, who was penalized after qualifying for failing to respect a single waved yellow flag and then dropped from sixth to 11th on the opening lap.
“I was not so surprised in a way, because if there’s a flag you’re supposed to see it. The fact is I just didn’t see it, there was a single yellow, not waved, just standing still and with the wind it was actually like vertical, so from the car it was quite hard to spot, but it’s the rule, so I take it. I didn’t see it.
“There was just no grip (at the start) and already on the formation lap I could feel that I couldn’t build enough tire temperature. On top of that, being on the dirty side of the track on the mediums, in the first few corners I was just skating around. Not great…”