Mercedes have admitted they were shocked by the size of the debris that got stuck underneath Valtteri Bottas’ car and affected his performance at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
The Finn, who started from pole position at Imola, was leading the race from Max Verstappen on lap two when he drove over a piece of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari which had become dislodged in a collision with Kevin Magnussen.
Bottas revealed after finishing second to his team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, in the race that he had seen the debris and tried to navigate over it with the wheels on either side, but it still became attached and was the cause of the “floor damage” which the team informed the driver about over the radio.
The issue cost Bottas valuable lap time and eventually he was ‘overcut’ by Hamilton, who was also helped by the timing of a Virtual Safety Car period.
Mercedes removed the debris at Bottas’ second stop, which came during the Safety Car period caused by Verstappen’s exit, and communicated a photo to show the size of the piece.
“We were having a conversation relatively early on that we were seeing a big drop in performance,” said Mercedes’ trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin, quoted by Motorsport Week.
“In terms of lap time it was seven or eight tenths of a second [per lap]. We weren’t really believing the sensors because we were looking at how Valtteri was not pushing particularly hard, able to do reasonable lap times and could build a bit of a gap.
“Early on we couldn’t quite believe how big it was and we didn’t quite know what it was.
“I think because when you look at the size of it and the fact it’s red, you can’t believe we couldn’t see it on the cameras. But it was lodged in the black area and because the whole car is black there we couldn’t see that.
“If we could have seen where it was, we could have possibly done a more effective job of getting it out at the first stop.
“He did the right decision to go right over it as taking it over a tyre would very probably have been an instant puncture, but through no fault of his own it basically held him back for the whole afternoon.”