F1 | US GP | Bottas to start US GP from P9 after latest engine penalty, and reveals that “there’s no proper solution yet” for Mercedes’ engine woes
The Finn qualified fourth for Sunday’s United States GP, but will move back five places following yet another engine change, with worries hanging over the reliability of the Mercedes power unit increasing recently.
The Mercedes driver endured a difficult qualifying session, in which he entered already knowing he would not get pole position due to an engine change on his W12. He trailed both Red Bull cars, of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, and teammate Lewis Hamilton. Pole-sitter last time out at the Circuit of The Americas, Bottas wasn’t happy with the balance of his Mercedes in the final segment of qualifying, and shed some light on why he couldn’t match the pace of his direct rivals:
"I tried to be as high as I could [on the grid], but the issue for me was the second run in Q3. It was quite messy in the last sector, I had some front-locking and understeer, and just lost all the time. Even in the first lap, it was half-decent, but sector three wasn’t that good. It is what it is, now I’ll start 9th."
Mercedes looked seriously quick on Friday, especially in FP1, but the pace faded away as the weekend unfolded, with the Red Bulls showing their hand on Saturday. Speaking about the sudden pace of the bulls, Valtteri believes Red Bull ‘found a bit more’ than Mercedes overnight, but is hopeful to get back on terms with the bulls on race pace:
"Yesterday they [Red Bull] looked OK, but nothing amazing, so I think they found a bit more than we did, over the night. For me the car felt a lot better than it did yesterday, but still Red Bull made a good step with performance, so they definitely had the upper-hand today. I still think race pace was quite similar."
Starting from the fifth row of the grid, the Finn has to overtake both cars of McLaren and Ferrari if he is to get in the mix at the front-end. Asked about the overtaking difficulty, Bottas said that ‘they’re not easy cars to overtake’ but is pinning his hopes on a clever strategy from his team, on what could potentially be a two-stop race:
"They are not easy cars to overtake, for sure. Based on what I found yesterday, following was quite tricky. At least it seems like it’s going to be more or less a two-stop race, so there will be at least opportunities with the strategy, you never know.", he concluded.
💬 "Let's see what can you do from P9. The strategy is going to be key tomorrow, overtaking is not easy here so we need to do everything we can to try and find an offset and move through the field."— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) October 23, 2021
VB's fired up and ready to do some hunting tomorrow. 👊 pic.twitter.com/EvqFHBQMn6
This will be Bottas’ third engine change in 5 races, taking his tally of ICEs (Internal Combustion Engines) for the season up to six, exceeding by three the limit specified in the regulations. He stated that there is ‘no proper solution yet’ for the issues warranting those changes, but reckons that he can finish the season with the engines already in his pool of allocated components:
"Yes, we know what the problem is, sometimes a bit different but mostly the same. There’s no proper solution yet. But at least the engine I’ve been running here, we’ve not seen any issues, and also the other one that I have in the pool – which is still quite fresh – is working OK, so I hope that with these two engines I can make it to the end."
Asked about his feelings after taking so many changes, Valtteri made it clear that it ‘never helps’, but takes comfort from the fact the penalty is less severe this weekend, because it’s not his first transgression of the regulations.
"Unfortunate. Obviously quite unlucky as well, so many times in the recent races, but at least now it’s only a 5-place penalty, but it never helps. When you are fighting for every single point, it makes things more difficult."
Winner at Austin in 2019, and top points-scorer of the grid since the Italian GP, Bottas will be hoping for a good recovery from 9th place in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.