The Finn could only qualify sixth on the grid for Sunday’s season-ending finale in Abu Dhabi after struggling for pace in Q3 as he ended up behind McLaren’s Lando Norris, the Red Bull of Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari. 

Bottas was over six-tenths slower than Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was beaten to pole position by title rival Max Verstappen

But Bottas explained his pace struggles were down to prioritising his car set-up for the race and because he was forced to run an older-mileage engine. 

“I kind of hit a lap time limit,” Bottas said. “I think I actually did my best time in Q2 and I could never improve that. 

“It felt like the more I tried, the set-up of my car didn’t have anymore in it. The way I set-up my car, I went for quite a soft set-up, mechanically, because I feel it’s quite good for the race. 

“I was hoping it would still be OK for qualifying, but the grip level was improving quite a lot. 

“The other factor was that we had to change for an older Power Unit for today, which I knew that - at least compared to the Power Unit I had yesterday - it was going to cost me at least two tenths.” 

Asked why Mercedes opted to change his engine, Bottas replied: “We are more confident with this Power Unit, for the reliability.”

Bottas explained that he lost performance when the grip levels improved as qualifying progressed. 

“Basically, once the grip level started to improve throughout the qualifying, I just couldn’t improve the lap time,” he said. “There was like a hard limit in the car and the more it started to roll, that was the limit.

Bottas added that Mercedes also lost time to Red Bull in the slowest corners. 

“I would say that Turn 5 and then Turns 6 and 7 have been a bit of an issue, but I would say the medium speed corners have been OK for us,” he explained. 

“Those two places have been a bit tricky, I can’t really say what is the reason for that but Red Bull always seems good in those kind of corners, anyway.”