After losing out to Red Bull in the fight for pole at the Bahrain Grand Prix three weeks ago, Mercedes struck back at Imola as Lewis Hamilton topped qualifying on Saturday.
But team-mate Bottas endured a more difficult end to qualifying as he faded to eighth place in the final classification, finishing almost half a second off Hamilton’s lap time.
It marked a big setback for Bottas, who led both practices on Friday and topped Q1 with a lap time that would have placed him fourth on the grid had it been set in Q3.
Bottas said after the session that he had struggled with rear-end instability when it mattered in Q3, lacking confidence at corner-entry, and wanted Mercedes to check over his car to investigate what caused the problem.
“I couldn’t trust the rear end of the car, and it was something that I didn’t feel in the whole qualifying before that,” Bottas said.
“So I don’t know what happened. I need to investigate. For sure, [it’s] disappointing.”
Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG, and James Allison, Technical Director, Mercedes AMG
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff explained after qualifying that both Bottas and Hamilton struggled with a tyre warm-up issue early in their Q3 laps, causing the deficit.
“Valtteri was pretty good all weekend in Turn 2 and 3, but both drivers had a warm-up issue at the beginning of the lap,” Wolff said.
“In Q1, once we were able to give Valtteri a second lap on the tyre, to bring in the temperatures, he was really very good. I think the Q1 lap, second Q1 lap, would have gotten him on P4.
“So it’s a warm-up issue, and we know exactly what it is, and Valtteri knows.
“But, nevertheless, he is in an OK position for the race tomorrow.”
Bottas lost four tenths of a second to Hamilton’s pole position time in the first sector alone, with the final gap standing at 0.487 seconds.
At the end of Q3, Hamilton lost one-tenth of a second compared to his best time through the first sector, and ultimately finished 0.022s down on his fastest lap time, but was nevertheless able to clinch pole position.