Initial Mercedes investigations into Valtteri Bottas’ poor start to the Spanish Grand Prix have suggested that it was a lack of grip, and not a clutch issue, that relegated him to P2.
The Finnish driver dominated qualifying on Saturday, taking pole position over teammate Lewis Hamilton by just over 0.6 seconds.
However, when the lights went out to start the race, Bottas was jumped easily by Hamilton. He also had to fend off the advances of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who was able to attack him around the outside but, ultimately, had to settle in behind the Mercedes duo. Hamilton went on to win the race with relative ease, with Bottas resigned to P2.
Afterwards, he explained that he felt he had lost the race at the start due to strange behaviour from his clutch, saying he felt it had been ‘biting and releasing’ over and over again. He said it hadn’t been a problem on the formation lap, and he hadn’t felt it happen before.
Beginning their technical investigation into what may have gone wrong for Bottas, Mercedes say that they don’t believe there was an issue with the clutch, but that the problem was simply due to a lack of grip for the pole position slot on the grid: “We believe there was a lack of grip on the pole position side. If you looked at the starts of the support races, more often than not the second, or even third or fourth placed guy would have a better start than the pole sitter.”
Senior Race Engineer Andrew Shovlin explained: “[The lack of grip] is one of the elements, and then also you get wheelspin and obviously the wheels are slipping and there’s a bit of interaction. We’re going to get all the bits back this week and have a good look at them to analyse but, at the moment, we think it was just an issue with the grip and not one with the car.”