Valtteri Bottas’ status as the outsider in the Formula 1 title race was strengthened in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix as a lack of traction caused him to slip from third to fifth at Spa, losing ground on Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

Bottas qualified third on Saturday, half a second back from Mercedes teammate Hamilton, and admitted he was perplexed by his lack of pace.

The Finn failed to keep up with either Hamilton or Ferrari’s Vettel through the first half of the race at Spa, and came under attack from Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen on the safety car restart with 11 laps to go.

Bottas lost two positions at the end of the Kemmel Straight after a scruffy exit from La Source, costing him top-end speed that ultimately resigned him to P5 at the chequered flag.

“I think initially the first stint felt fine. I was just lacking a bit of pace like the whole weekend but it was difficult to see exactly where I was losing out,” Bottas explained.

“Then in the second stint it felt OK with the soft tyre and I was more or less matching the guys in front, even sometimes catching up a little bit.

“In the end I could see when I was behind Kimi that out of the last corner and out of Turn 1 I was definitely losing out on traction.

“I could already feel behind the safety car that I just couldn’t get the soft tyre into the window ever, and it was kind of getting worse and worse. I was just struggling with the temperature and it felt like pretty much driving on ice behind the safety car.

“So I had to cover Turn 1 because the cars were really close behind and otherwise they would be going down the inside. So I had a poor Turn 1, poor overall grip, poor traction, a bad exit onto the back straight and then the guys came both sides of me. I tried to brake late for Turn 5 but still couldn’t stop the car and went straight.

“It took another half a lap to one lap to get the tyres to work somehow, and then the last couple of laps it felt OK again. I just couldn’t get the soft tyre to work, the guys with the ultra-soft at the restart had the upper hand.

“I’m obviously really disappointed to lose the podium at the restart and obviously if two guys overtake you in one corner it’s not a very good feeling.”

The results sees Bottas slip to 41 points behind championship leader Vettel with eight races remaining this season.

 

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