Valtteri Bottas says he is searching for answers after a slump in performance throughout the course of Formula 1’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend.
Bottas struggled for speed all weekend at the Baku City Circuit, trailing Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who qualified on the front row of the grid.
Bottas provided Hamilton with a slipstream for that lap and was then left without a tow as he attempted his final Q3 run – which was abandoned due to a red flag.
From the foot of the top 10 Bottas made little progress and then dropped further down the order at the restart, relinquishing four positions in six corners.
Bottas eventually classified in 12th position and slipped to sixth in the standings.
“Mainly the main issue was the lack of pace, and just not being quick enough,” said Bottas.
“Quite early on in the race I could see that I just couldn’t quite match the cars ahead, especially when the Aston Martin was ahead of me, I just couldn’t keep up. Still, I’m confused and it’s really weird.”
The two Mercedes drivers ran slightly different rear wing configurations from qualifying onwards, but Bottas dismissed any notion that it contributed to the pace deficit.
“It’s something we need to review,” Bottas said. “But we know it’s not going to be much – it’s going to be, maximum, one-tenth [of a second], so I don’t think that’s the key thing.
“We started the weekend with the same wing and I’ve been behind Lewis all the time by quite a big margin.
“I can’t remember having this kind of weekend before. Yes, there were a few weekends where I’ve had bad sessions but always, at some point, I had the pace.
“I know myself where the limit is, and I cannot go faster than this, still six, seven, eight tenths behind.
“It’s not normal, so it’s something we need to understand before going to France.”
Mercedes struggled for tyre warm-up in both Monaco and Azerbaijan, with both circuits featuring an abundance of low-energy corners, with the team opting for two warm-up laps during qualifying on Saturday.
Bottas is optimistic that Mercedes’ issues will be alleviated at upcoming venues, with Circuit Paul Ricard – where it dominated in the hands of Hamilton in 2018 and 2019 – next up.
“France is, of course, very different, there’s long corners, high-speed corners,” he said.
“I think one issue we struggled here was tyre warm-up, especially on the front axle, so that should be a bit easier in the next race at least, and then we’ll see.
“We must learn from this weekend, but also it’s one to forget.”