12 April 2015
F1 Chinese Grand Prix: Bottas lonely on run to sixth in Shanghai
Tyre concerns leave Valtteri Bottas unable to mount a challenge for the top five on F1's annual visit to China.
Valtteri Bottas has admitted that there was little he could do to improve his position in the Chinese Grand Prix once he had lost two places on the opening lap.
The Finn had made a good start to the race, passing Williams team-mate Felipe Massa when the Brazilian had to back off in the turn one scrum, but then found himself being jumped by the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen a little later in the lap.
“Turns 1-2-3 were okay, but then Kimi surprised me at turn six,” he confessed, “I saw him too late and lost two places in the end.”
While he was able to maintain enough pace to hang with Massa, who had repassed him behind Raikkonen, Bottas found it difficult to get close enough to the Brazilian to contemplate a move for fifth, and both Williams drivers eventually found themselves strung out in a kind of 'no mans land' between the two Ferraris and the battles going on for the minor points in their wake.
“The initial first stint was okay, not that far from Ferrari, but then we were just slipping off more and more,” Bottas lamented, “When we went onto the prime on the second stint, I was closing a bit more to Felipe but just couldn't keep up. The last stint was a bit better, the tyres were working a little bit better, but still there was not much happening in the race. We were struggling with the pace and struggling with the prime compound tyres overheating, so I couldn't really push that hard.”
Bottas echoed his team-mate's belief that Williams is finishing exactly where the current F1 pecking order suggests it should, as the third best team in the field, and will not move up again without some attention being paid to the characteristics of the FW37-Mercedes.
“Of course we want to be higher but, at the moment, it is where we are and we need to look at everything we can do better with this car,” the Finn noted, “The main thing is to focus on development. We definitely didn't get everything out of the tyres this weekend - in either qualifying or the race. I think there is a little more in the tyres to get but not 30secs or 50secs [to close the gap to the top two teams].
“We didn't really struggle with the balance of the car, but we did struggle with the prime tyre overheating because the working range is quite low and, even though we tried everything to reduce the temperatures of the tyres for the race, it was not enough, so we need to improve on that.”
With the Bahrain Grand prix looming next weekend, Bottas' concerns over tyre temperatures look set to continue, even though the medium Pirelli will be paired with the more durable hard in Sakhir.
“I think the hards will be okay but, on the mediums, we may struggle unless we can find something in the next week,” he conceded, “It's another different type of track, although I think, last year, we were not too bad there. I remember the pace was not too bad in the end, but we lost a few places with the strategy.
“Now I think, quite clearly, we are the third quickest team, with a good margin to the rear. So we've got to try anything we can to go forward. We struggled a bit less last year with the tyres overheating, so that's a really important thing that we need to keep working on.”
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