Mercedes cars experienced contrasting fortunes around Baku during the qualifying session. Despite initial struggles, Lewis Hamilton finally found the car’s setup that allowed him to fight for pole position, as he ended on the front row behind the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.
For Valtteri Bottas, it was unfortunately a less rosy scenario. Coming from difficult practice sessions that saw him dropping further down in 13th, the Finn didn’t look in the position to recover.
According to Toto Wolff — Mercedes Team Principal — the choice to run different wing configurations in qualifying — lower downforce for Hamilton and higher-downforce for Bottas — was the drivers’ own choice and there was “not a lot in it”. Sadly for the Finn, the chosen setup never seemed to deliver. He was 12th in Q1, 9th in Q2 and will start the race from the 10th slot of the grid.
Reflecting on an overall disappointing qualifying session, Bottas sounded clueless regarding his lack of pace.
“My pace has been suffering all weekend and I feel like ultimately, something is wrong because I’m on the limit but so far off the pace. if I push harder, I’m in the wall,” he said.
Bottas gave his teammate Lewis Hamilton a tow on his first flying lap and ended up only 10th having not benefited from a slipstream himself. Toto Wolff clarified the Mercedes operating mode regarding the outing order of the silver arrows cars.
“We have the rule at the beginning of the season that any driver can decide whether he wants to go first or second.”
“This weekend it was Lewis’s call and he decided to go second.”
The Nastola native also confirmed his team boss statement, as he asserted:
“We alternate and this weekend was Lewis’ choice to decide who goes first out the garage.”
“So obviously in the first run on Q3 he had my tow and in the second run I tried to get tow from Charles but there was the red flag which stopped my flying lap.”
VB’s bad luck continues 😔 He was on a quick lap and improving when Q3 was red flagged!— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) June 5, 2021
The same happened in Monaco too. 💔 pic.twitter.com/8pjvuVIstP
The Mercedes leader acknowledged the Finn’s misfortune as he stated “Valtteri was just unlucky today, he could have been in the top five.”
Far from being defeated, Bottas anticipates fighting from the back, as he expects some of the unpredictable events that often occur in Baku to help his push to the top.
“Tomorrow will be a challenge but I know anything can happen in this race.”
“I’ve been here before one lap down and finished back at the front.”
“So you never know for sure. We’ll keep trying and I’ll just try to understand everything I can tonight and fight tomorrow.”