Valtteri Bottas will have missed many spectators in Mexico, but he also managed to finish in the points. Admittedly it was tenth place for Alfa Romeo, which is not doing well in the second half of the season. However, that doesn’t stop the weekend that Finn rode. In race it takes F1Maximum.nl Join us and let’s see how Bottas, despite the limited strategy, still managed to score.
In fact, it was already clear from the first free practice in Mexico City that Alfa Romeo has more in the tank when air resistance is low. Like Mercedes, the Swiss racetrack usually loses a lot of speed in one lap. Because of the thin air, this was not the case in Mexico, and that benefited the car. After sampling the local delicacies, Bottas hopped into the cockpit for the first free practice session.
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In that free practice, he calmly ran his first scouting rounds. Alfa Romeo was in no hurry, taking him to the track three times in the first half hour. During each phase he continued to drive for a while, but did not do more than five laps per phase. The counter was 23 at the end of the session. The brakes were not right in the first free practice, something we also noticed with other teams. Other than that, it went well, with a result of 1:21.083.
“Right now you’re second,” he sounded in the middle of his engineer. He eventually finished seventh. Towards the end, one of his moves was brutally interrupted by a stalled Pietro Fittipaldi. His team then took him out. Bottas put the power on the hards, entered the pits at speed, set the smooth and finished his first practice session.
Alfa Romeo with important problems
VT2 finished Bottas in P9, although that final classification didn’t say much. As you know, the second session was run on prototype tires, with only 45 minutes that the teams could practice for the Grand Prix. The two second gap to number one for George Russell was somewhat insignificant. The coffee-loving Finn was also not shocked when he saw his colleague Zhou Guanyu fall silent towards the end of the session.
‘Hydraulic problem..’, the Chinese reported. ‘Stop the car. Stop the car now, Zhou,” Alfa Romeo ordered its driver. Exactly 71 years after Alfa’s last F1 victory, one of the cars on the tow truck had to be returned. It wasn’t the most promising driver of the two to that point: Bottas On Friday, he certainly lived up to his name as the experienced force within the team.
Saturday saw another top ten finish during the final practice session, and P8 at the end of VT3. This period also went well for Bottas, except for a moment with Carlos Sainz. ‘Sainz is behind you on a flying lap, but we are so’, his engineer passed. Bottas: ‘Does it use less fuel?’
He received confirmation, took off his gas, but still stopped the Ferrari driver. Sainz slowed down a bit and continued to drive aggressively in front of the Alfa Romeo. “What is he doing?” A sane Finn wondered. ‘I really don’t know what Sainz is doing…’, his engineer insisted. They were clearly confused by the ridiculous Spaniard.
Mega qualifying for Bottas
On qualification. Judging by the results, there was definitely something positive for Alfa Romeo, and Zhou was the one in the Hinwil stable that hadn’t shown it all weekend. It was for Bottas to show off. We’re fast-forwarding to Q3, because Q1 and Q2 went well. He was among the best teams on the grid: Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull Racing, McLaren and Alpine. You could say that normally the eighth to tenth position was reserved for him.
However, Bottas was also very good in Mexico. His legs were tough, especially in the third part of qualifying. ‘You only have Max Verstappen in front of you for five seconds, and there are no more queues.’ Bottas produced a very creditable round. “We are in P6, ahead of Charles Leclerc. Verstappen is the fastest with 1:17.9.’ Satisfied, Bottas was able to return to the pits, after which he was allowed to turn that sixth place into something better.
‘When you are ready, fashion to push. let’s send’, were words of encouragement from the dungeon wall. Another solid lap from Bottas, who was still sixth after the second attempt. “And that’s the sixth position,” his team confirmed. ‘Good job men. That was a great walk. That last round was really good.’ This was reflected in the final result, as Ferrari saw one of the customer teams split its two drivers. Charles Leclerc was dropped to fourth row by Bottas.
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And now head to the cross
The tone was set and Bottas had qualified in P6. After all, Alfa Romeo, which has not scored a point in the second half of the season, was looking at how Bottas could make a difference in the constructors’ championship. Leclerc’s Ferrari, Bottas knew, was probably unstoppable over the entire race distance. But Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon could be blocked.
The lights went out and Bottas was very lost. He continued with Sainz and Sergio Pérez, starting from P4. He was very careful entering turn 1 and immediately the Ferrari and Alpine passed him. Leclerc ended before the first corner. He thought he could catch up with the Alpine driver in turn 2, but to no avail.
“Okay, Valtteri. Good job,” he was told after round 1. “Alonso is ahead of us, Ocon behind us.” Bottas created cheese and ham in an authentic croque monsieur. “Okay, Valtteri. We’re in a good position. Plan A, we’ll stick to plan A.” Bottas naturally responded calmly: “a copy.He followed Alonso for a long time, but the Alpine gained too much speed on the straight. Alfa Romeo, which seemed to have the pace all weekend, came up just short.
That Alpine rear wing was the driver’s adornment for almost the entire period on the communications equipment – that’s how Bottas started. Two Ferraris entered the pit lane a little early, so on lap 36 he was sixth again, but still had to pit. Alpine called Ocon on the pit lane a little earlier than Alfa Romeo did with Bottas, and they noticed that too. On lap 42, the Frenchman approached quickly, and began to overdo it in Turn 1. On the outside, he went around the red and white car, and Bottas lost his position. Bottas was on a hard tire – a bad choice in hindsight.
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“His tires are for seven laps and Ocon had a harder time on the previous lap than you. This will be a long one, we will race to the end,” Alfa Romeo warned. A little later it went wrong and Ocon passed him well. Bottas wanted to pull back a few laps later, but again braked too cautiously, and saw another Alpine finish in front of him. In the end Daniel Ricciardo, although on the line, was also very fast.
After the retirement of Alonso, Bottas had to recognize his superior in Norris, so that he crossed the finish line in tenth place. “That’s a checkered flag. P10, P10. We did what we had to do today. This was not the result we expected, but it went well,” Bottas was told. ‘Yes.. One thing is better than nothing. We didn’t have the speed, and it was difficult. Especially on the hard.’ Immediately after the race, Bottas put his finger on the sore spot, which is his team’s lack of strategy. “That red belt did better than expected, didn’t it? Ricciardo jumped on the tarmac..’
Alfa Romeo costs Bottas the best result
In Mexico City, a single barricade with loudspeakers and lines turned out to be the main strategy, somewhat contrary to expectations. When Bottas went into the pits after 39 laps for the line, and had to live 33 more laps on it, it seemed like a huge gamble. Alfa Romeo chose a hard drive, as did Mercedes. In the end, that’s what cost him points, because if we’re honest, Bottas was more than 10 in Central America.
However, he managed to score in a period of the year that this is not obvious for Alfa Romeo. The team has been behind in development compared to many of the teams that were similar to them at the beginning of the year, perhaps also because Alfa was already close to the low weight and could therefore do little in that area. Aston Martin has been moving further and further in the pursuit of P6 in recent races, so every point counts. Alfa, and Bottas, will no doubt have gone home satisfied.