Valtteri Bottas says his Mercedes Formula 1 car is “not easy to drive” and blamed balance issues for what he labelled as a “messy” Friday at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. 

Bottas set the pace in the opening practice session for Mercedes but fell down to fourth place in the afternoon, ending up over 0.7s adrift of Daniel Ricciardo’s FP2-leading Red Bull. 

Mercedes has struggled to extract maximum performance from Pirelli’s 2018 tyres so far this year and has failed to top a qualifying session since Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole by 0.7s in Australia. But Bottas believes there is underlying pace still to find in his W09 heading into Baku qualifying. 

“FP1 was better than FP2 because I think we were missing a bit of pace in the second session compared to Ferrari and Red Bull,” he explained. “It was quite difficult to get a lap together, even my best lap today was a bit a messy. 

"It’s not an easy car to drive at the moment, we have some work to do with the balance. But if we get everything right, the car is quick. We have plenty of things to look at tonight so that we make the right changes for tomorrow and Sunday.”

Bottas cited the earlier scheduling of this year’s race in Azerbaijan as a possible reason for F1 team’s apparent tyre struggles during practice, while the Finn is also worried a predicted change in wind conditions overnight could make qualifying even more difficult. 

“The fact that we’re here in Baku earlier than in previous years definitely affects the tyres, but the biggest concern is the wind. It’s supposed to be very windy tomorrow and on Sunday which makes a lot of a difference on a street circuit.”

 

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