Mercedes believes that Valtteri Bottas lost between half a second and eight-tenths of a second per lap after striking debris in Formula 1’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Having maintained the lead from pole position, Bottas hit a piece of endplate which had broken off Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari following a collision with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen at the Tosa hairpin on the opening lap.

Bottas said he had no chance to avoid striking the debris which became lodged under his car, although the Finn was able to avoid a puncture. Mercedes’ pit wall did not initially believe the data which indicated Bottas had lost 50 downforce points due to the debris.

“Unfortunately, that part, and it is a big bit, got jammed in our bargeboard area which is a very important area for the aerodynamics,” Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin explained.

“It conditions the flow further down the car. And it was causing quite a big drop in performance. We were seeing something that would be somewhere in the region of between half a second and even eight tenths of a second, so really big losses.

“Now, we spent a few laps uncertain whether this was really on the car because Valtteri was doing a pretty good job at the front of the race, when we asked him to build a gap to Max, he was able to find some time. And it didn’t really stack up that he had such a big performance loss.

"So, for us it was a little confusing but really just a sign of how well Valtteri was dealing with that pretty major problem.”

Shovlin explained that due to the endplate being black on the underside, Mercedes had difficulty in locating the debris during Bottas’ first stop, meaning the team was not able to successfully remove it from his W11 until he swapped onto Soft tyres for the final stint.

As a result, Bottas spent the majority of the race being hampered by the severe performance deficit on his way to eventually claiming second place behind teammate Lewis Hamilton.

“The other issue was although this part is painted red on one side, it was black on the other and that area of our car is black,” Shovlin said.

“So, we had people in the race support room in Brackley looking at the footage and we knew which area of the car there might be a problem, but we were trying to see if we could get a photo or a shot from the camera feed to show us exactly what it is, so we can be ready to get it out at the pit stop.

“But because the area is all black, we couldn’t see it. So, the first stop, well, Valtteri was under pressure from Max, we couldn’t afford to spend even an extra half a second looking around the car.

“We did see the part, but we weren’t able to pull it out, it was pretty well jammed in there and as a result Valtteri had to live with it for the whole of the second stint. But once we knew what it was, where it was, when Valtteri stopped for those Soft tyres at the end of the race we were actually able to get rid of it once and for all.

“So, it was actually a brilliant drive from Valtteri, really unfortunate though, you are leading a race and you pick up this bit that normally would just get knocked off to the side, seriously hampered his race.

“In reality, he only had the first lap and that final stint on Softs where the car was anything close to normal.”

 

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