Valtteri Bottas admits a “super-quick” Virtual Safety Car period in the closing stages of Formula 1’s French Grand Prix caught him by surprise.

Bottas had been around 15 second behind Mercedes teammate and race-leader Lewis Hamilton when a late VSC was called for a loose bollard on track, but after a swift clear up and return to green flag conditions, the Finn dropped further behind, eventually crossing the line 18s adrift.

“I lost a little bit of time in the VSC, but it was also a super-quick period,” Bottas explained.

“First you have to slow down a lot, to be positive on the delta, while you’re changing the engine modes and then suddenly they said “VSC ending”, so you had to change the engine modes again.

"I could start going flat-out immediately because I was positive, so I think I got down to plus 3 for the delta, which is a bigger gap than usual, so we lost a bit of time there.

“The main issue was because of the blisters on the front tyres, we had a bit of tyre wear and when you lose a little bit of tyre temperature with the VSC, you struggle to get it back to temperature because there is not much rubber left there.”

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff added: “The VSC period was much shorter than anticipated and looking at the data he lost a few seconds being positive on his delta time, so simply he was caught out by the shortness of the VSC.”

Bottas identified his struggles with tyre management as his biggest weakness during the race.

“Obviously I’m very pleased for us, as a team, we had a fantastic weekend, getting the maximum points available, so from that side it was good,” he said.

“But my gap to Lewis, for sure I’m not pleased with that. I think in the beginning, when the tyres were fresh, there was no problem in staying with him. Today my issue was keeping the front tyres in a good state.

“Always in the middle of the stints my front tyres were starting to finish, so the gap started to build up.

“That was the difference for Lewis, he was quick today and efficient with the tyres and that’s why we had that gap.”

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