Valtteri Bottas was in a reflective mood after the opening day of pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit on Friday after the Finn was restricted to just six laps due to a mechanical issue on his W12.
The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver was looking forward to the first track action of 2021 but on his installation lap, a gearbox issue was identified by his team, and he was then stuck in the garage whilst it was replaced.
He was able to get back on track before the end of the morning session, but a red flag meant he was unable to bring himself off the bottom of the timing screens.
“The whole team was looking forward to getting on track but on the install lap we noticed an issue with the gearbox, so we had to localise the problem and change the gearbox which takes quite a bit of time,” said Bottas.
“Only at the end of the morning session could we get back out for a few more laps before the red flag. A total of six laps for me, all with aero rakes on the car so not much running today and not an ideal start.
“In recent years things have been pretty much bulletproof so it’s not a familiar experience. The good thing is that this year if you miss some running you can hopefully catch up because of the mileage limitation linked to the cost cap efficiencies.
“I am confident we can recover and I’m looking forward to two good days over the weekend.”
“Today definitely wasn’t the cleanest of days” – Lewis Hamilton
Team-mate Lewis Hamilton took over for the afternoon’s running, with the reigning World Champion completing forty-two laps.
The Briton, looking to win a record-breaking eighth World Championship in 2021, worked through a number of programmes but also had to deal with a sandstorm that struck the track midway the four-hour session.
“Today definitely wasn’t the cleanest of days that we’ve had but these things are sent to try us,” said Hamilton. “Everyone has worked extremely hard to get us here.
“We had that mishap in the morning which was very unfortunate for Valtteri in terms of losing time on track and the team is working hard to try and understand what that was. I think they did a great job to turn the car around.
“The second session wasn’t without its challenges, but we exist to find solutions to the problems we’re faced with. We just had a good debrief and we’ll keep working away.
“I’ve never seen a sandstorm come through here before in all the years that I’ve driven at this circuit. The sand was moving like rain would move. Having sand on the tyres isn’t good for their longevity and getting consistency on long runs is difficult. Over a single lap it isn’t the worst, but you need lots of laps at this time of year to get data.”
Hamilton says there is no point in thinking about the negatives, but with so little testing ahead of the new season – just three days in total between the two drivers – they need to rebound on Saturday and Sunday and find the performance of the W12.
“We have no choice but to take the positives,” said Hamilton. “I remember in 2007 during testing I had 10 days in the car and now it’s getting less and less.
“We only have a day and a half in the car before the first race, with different tyres and different aero modifications so it’s not easy but it’s the same for everyone. I’d like to think my nine years’ experience with this team will help me get the best out of it.”