21 September 2014
F1 Singapore Grand Prix: Bottas defends strategy as steering issue adds to tyre woes
Valtteri Bottas reveals that a steering problem that appeared while running behind the safety car made it more difficult to keep the F1 pack at bay in Singapore.
Valtteri Bottas maintains that trying to make his third set of tyres last all the way to the chequered flag was the right strategy for Williams to follow in the Singapore Grand Prix, but his cause wasn't helped by a steering issue that manifested itself after what became his final stop.
The Finn appeared on course for a top six finish but was having to make his tyres - a set of new soft compound Pirellis – last almost 40 laps after the intervention of the safety car turned strategies on their head. Williams had planned to pit both Bottas and team-mate Felipe Massa for a third time before the end of the race but, with rival teams planning to stretch their stints to the chequered flag, decided that it was necessary to follow suit.
While Massa made it to the end and claimed fifth place, Bottas' task was made more difficult after his FW36 developed a problem with its steering while running behind the safety car.
“I couldn't manage the tyres as I wanted as there was some issue there,” the Finn confirmed, “We still need to investigate whether it was the power steering or some bearing or something, but the steering wheel was really sticky and there was no feedback from the car. If I turned the wheel in a straight line, it would stay there and never came back, so I just couldn't kill those little snaps in the exits.
“It started with the safety car [and although] it stayed the same after that, it sure didn't help as the stint didn't end. It was so long…. I think I was one of the first to stop second time around and I was still on plan for three stops, so I was pushing hard before the safety car and not managing the tyres. I tried everything I could in the end to manage them and defend, but it's a shame that [the race] was one or two laps too many.”
Having started the penultimate lap in sixth spot, Bottas' tyres went 'over the cliff' and, without grip, he was unable to keep the train at bay any longer, plummeting to eleventh as a result.
“They haven't got the tyres back yet, so we don't know if it was a puncture or not, but I think it was just tyre life,” he reasoned, “The rate of 'deg' was just getting bigger and bigger and, at the end, it was just a bit too much….
“I had to defend to the inside of the corner and there was no grip at the rear. It was the same on the exit, as there was no traction, so that was it from the tyres. We had good straight-line speed, so that helped in defending, but, when you need to defend in some corners, you use the tyres a bit more than is ideal… I think if it had just been Kimi [Raikkonen] behind, I may have got away with it on the last lap, but the Toro Rosso came easily past me and I had to defend from the Force India as well, but they were carrying more pace so I couldn't….”
Despite admitting that he had been surprised by Jean-Eric Vergne's decision to pass at turn nine, Bottas insisted that he had no problem with Williams' strategy.
“It was a really difficult race today, but I still think it was the right thing to do to go to the end as Ferrari clearly had much better pace,” he noted, “We tried and Felipe managed to do it – I was kind of keeping the others away from him, so it was good for the teams' points, even if I'm disappointed not to get points myself.”
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