Two weeks ago, in Imola, Valtteri Bottas probably had one of the most frustrating race weekends of his career. After looking at the data to understand what happened, he reveals that the tires were the only issue behind his poor pace.
During Friday’s practice sessions, Valtteri Bottas looked very fast as he managed to top both FP1 and FP2. Nonetheless, on Saturday, his rhythm unexplainably and very suddenly collapsed, only letting him set the eighth fastest time of both FP3 and qualifying sessions, which is, of course, extremely disappointing considering his car.
Having good results in the qualifying session is especially important on a track such as the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, as overtaking is extremely difficult and compromised by the length of the modern F1 single-seaters. Starting in P8 was, therefore, already an aggravating factor to hope for good results on Sunday.
However, this frustrating weekend took a premature end when Bottas and Russell collided at Tamburello, both destroying their single-seaters. This crash is especially surprising considering the fact that one of the two best cars amongst the 2021 grid was fighting for P9 against one of the two worst cars on the grid.
After analyzing data with his engineers, Bottas revealed the real issue behind his pace: tires. It was already mentioned by Mercedes’ engineering director, Andrew Shovlin, that the Finn never really managed to warm up his tires properly, throughout the weekend.
“He did look very strong on Friday and was in a good position, very happy with the car. (…) In qualifying, he seemed to be struggling a little bit more for the tire temperature than Lewis,” Shovlin said.
“The thing with tire temperature though is often a very small difference has a very big impact on grip.”
“In the race, really, he was struggling following and being able to overtake, just because he was losing front end in the tow but also the rear wasn’t strong. And again, it was that theme that warm-up was a problem for him.”
Bottas himself pointed out the same issue, putting all the blame on his tires. Nonetheless, asked if DAS would have helped him get the best of the game around Imola, he admitted not thinking it would have had a big impact on his performances.
This is could be interpreted as a surprising note, considering that when the system was allowed, it helped the Mercedes drivers to increase the tow angle of their front tires and, therefore, increase tire temperature easier. However, Bottas confided that the main issue was his rear tire’s temperature and that DAS was only helpful for the front tires.
“In Imola the struggles in qualifying, now once we understood everything, it was 100% tires,” Bottas said.
“My Q1 time would have been enough for the second row. And in Q3, we ended up eighth. So it’s an area that we need to pay more attention to.”
“With the DAS for sure, it was helpful on that [tire warm-up] but to be honest in Imola the main issue for me was rear tires. (…) Getting them warm, instead of the fronts. The DAS system was only for the fronts.”