Valtteri Bottas was “confused” why the same oversteer problem had occurred twice in Q3 at Imola, leaving him eighth on the grid for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
The Finn admitted he could, and probably should, have been on the front row alongside his Mercedes team-mate, Sir Lewis Hamilton, who claimed pole position.
Instead, the reverse situation is set to occur of what we have seen so often at the front of races in the last couple of years – one Mercedes battling with two Red Bulls, rather than vice versa.
That is because Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen qualified second and third respectively, while Bottas will have to initially find a way past the two McLarens immediately ahead of him before also targeting Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.
It was the first sector of the Imola circuit where Bottas lost time – around four tenths of a second on both of his runs in Q3.
And he revealed that a similar issue had happened early in the lap each time, putting him on the back foot and unable to make up the ground he had lost to his main rivals.
“Q1, Q2 was feeling okay, I was really happy with the car,” Bottas told Sky F1. “I knew exactly where to find the time in Q3 but it never came.
“Q3 first run I had quite a big snap [of oversteer] into Turn 1-2, lost a lot of time and the rear end was never there on that run. The same thing, to be honest, on run two, so a bit confused what happened. I don’t quite understand, so I need to have a look.”
Despite Hamilton expressing surprise that he had secured his 99th F1 pole position, his display showed Mercedes ought to have no inferiority complex to Red Bull at this circuit – although Bottas concurred that individual venues will play to each team’s respective strengths.
“It’s proof that the performance differences between teams can really swing and this is clearly a better track for us, even though the result for me is not representing that,” said the 31-year-old.
“But Lewis made it on pole and I should have been up there as well. It’s good to see but it’s not only the track, it’s also all the hard work we have been doing.”