27 September 2015
F1 Japanese Grand Prix: Podium aim a mirage for Bottas
Valtteri Bottas' hopes of a podium at the Japanese Grand Prix quickly turned into a battle for position as Williams struggled at Suzuka.
Valtteri Bottas admitted that he had been hoping for a podium finish after starting third in the Japanese Grand Prix, but instead conceded places to both Ferraris before coming home in fifth place.
The Finn had produced a stellar lap in Saturday's time session to line up as 'best of the rest' behind the two pace-setting Mercedes and, with Felipe Massa splitting the Ferraris in fifth spot, Williams went into race day at Suzuka confident that they could at least battle the Scuderia for the third step on the rostrum.
Bottas, however, was hampered slightly by the Mercedes battle through turns one and two, and had already fallen behind Sebastian Vettel by the time the field headed through the Esses. From there, he was able to hold position ahead of the recovering Nico Rosberg until the first round of pit-stops but, despite fitting another set of medium-compound Pirellis to his FW37, had no answer to the hard-shod German as the pair headed into the chicane on lap 16.
Accepting that Williams did not have the pace of the works team, Bottas maintained fourth place until the second round of pit-stops, but succumbed to countryman Kimi Raikkonen, who pitted first and successfully undercut the #77 machine when it emerged from its stop on lap 36. Although just under three seconds split the two Finns at the flag, Bottas was unable to mount a serious challenge to the Ferrari and was left to reflect on a missed opportunity.
“Not a perfect day for us, but we will take the ten points,” he insisted, “I was hoping for a podium, but the pace wasn't as good as we had expected. Defending from the quicker cars was hard and I think we should have pitted earlier for the final stop - but it's always easier to say that after the race.”
Head of vehicle performance, Rob Smedley, shared Bottas' view that perhaps the strategy had contributed to a result that had already been hampered by Felipe Massa's coming together with Daniel Ricciardo on lap one...
“Our call on the first stop was the right one, and kept us in front of Rosberg,” he admitted, “but our second stop was too late and so we lost the position to Raikkonen. We have further solidified our third place in the championship but leave Suzuka with the knowledge that we could have achieved more.”
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