Bottas suspects damage only explanation for ‘off the pace’ Saudi GP

Valtteri Bottas suspects damage floor damage likely picked up on the opening lap of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was responsible for his Ala Romeo’s dismal pace in Jeddah.

Bottas’ display was so inconspicuous for the entire duration of the event that one would have been forgiven to believe that the Finn hadn’t even been on the grid.

And yet he was as he launched his race from 14th, lost a position at the start, pitted on lap 9 to swap his mediums for hards and then settled at the bottom of the field for the remainder of the evening, the only driver to finish a lap down on race winner Sergio Perez.

  • F1i’s Driver Ratings for the 2023 Saudi Arabian GP

Bottas suspected that – like McLaren’s Lando Norris – he may have been collateral damage following the opening lap contact between Oscar Piastri and Pierre Gasly.

“So much off the pace,” Bottas lamented. “I’m suspecting I ran over quite a large bit of debris on Lap 1 before Turn 4, and I could really feel it under the floor.

“Perhaps some damage, that’s my only explanation at the moment; obviously, we’ll have a look.”

After his initial pit stop, Bottas reverted to the medium compound on lap 17. He then took on a final set of softs on lap 35 of 50 with the hope that the fresh rubber would correct his balance troubles. To no avail unfortunately.

“Yeah, just to see,” he said. “Neither of the tyres I had before… I was just sliding around basically with lack of grip.

“But with softs maybe one or two laps was okay but then the same thing. So yeah something wasn’t right, so it felt like a long Sunday.”

One could argue that something hadn’t been right for Bottas all weekend as the Finn trailed his Alfa teammate Zhou Guanyu in every session in Jeddah, save for FP1.

But the Finn was convinced that his deficit on race day relative to Zhou wasn’t just a mere reflection of the overall weakness he had displayed since Friday.

“It seemed more serious than that,” he believed. “I’m keen to find out what it is and why we were so much slower.”

Bottas conceded that there were no positives to take away from his Jeddah weekend, save perhaps the minor consolation that missing Q3 by the same margin as in Bahrain indicated that Alfa had at least not regressed in terms of qualifying pace.

“At least the gap to Q3 was like in Bahrain, so in quali pace, we didn’t go backwards I think,” the Finn concluded. “But that’s about it.

“Now we need to figure out everything from this weekend and hopefully a better one in Australia.”

“We are confident we can make it there in Melbourne, where we will also bring some updates to further improve the performance of our C43,” added Alfa team spokesman Alessandro Alunni Bravi.

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“We need to keep working hard, of course: the season is long and the battle will be intense in each race.”

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