Valtteri Bottas said Mercedes’ double-stack pit-stop blunder had “destroyed” his Sakhir Grand Prix after the team fell below their normal “bulletproof” standards.
The Finn’s run of bad luck since his latest victory in Russia continued as he finished eighth, having started in pole position for the second of back-to-back races in Bahrain.
However, Bottas was beaten off the start line by the other Mercedes driven by George Russell, who had been called into the team while Lewis Hamilton sat out the race following his positive test for COVID-19.
Running second to Russell throughout, Bottas was called in for a double-stack pit-stop when the Safety Car emerged so that a piece of Williams front wing could be retrieved from the track.
But the World Champions, normally so reliable in every aspect, got their procedures wrong and after mixing up Russell’s tyre set, the ensuing confusion then led to Bottas exiting the pits on the same set of hard tyres with which he had entered.
Team principal Toto Wolff later described it as a “colossal f***-up”.
Full ⚠️ SAFETY CAR ⚠️ deployed
Mercedes call both drivers into the pits for new tyres but there's a problem putting on Bottas' fresh set #SakhirGP 🇧🇭 #F1 pic.twitter.com/sGC1KYFsBO
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 6, 2020
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That dropped him down the order and when the race restarted in earnest, the 31-year-old had no answer to rivals on fresher rubber, passed by five cars including Russell – who eventually finished one place behind him after having to pit again when he sustained a puncture.
It was another disappointing Sunday for Bottas, who was outperformed by a temporary colleague driving the Mercedes competitively for the first time.
Talking to Sky F1, however, he was keener to address the errors the team had made that cost him a podium finish at least as previous non-race winners Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll eventually filled the top three placings.
“I wish I knew what happened,” said Bottas. “Obviously as a team we did big mistakes today.
“I came in for the pit-stop under the Safety Car because we had a free stop time-wise and normally as a team we are bulletproof, we don’t do mistakes.
“But now we did and it’s something we really need to review and I’m sure we will learn from that.
“Obviously that destroyed the race because I left the pit-stop with the same old, hard tyre set that I went in with and I just couldn’t get them to restart under the Safety Car and I had cars coming on both sides passing me.
“There were people with fresh tyres and it was hard to compete.”
On the team radio on his in-lap, Bottas was told by his race engineer: “Sorry for the mix-up. We need to be better than this.”
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