Valtteri Bottas has expressed surprise at why no yellow flags were waved to warn of the debris that ended up costing him performance at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
The Finn encountered a piece of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari on the track at Imola’s Tosa corner on lap two while leading Sunday’s race and tried to drive his Mercedes over it with the wheels on either side to avoid a puncture.
But the piece of bodywork became stuck underneath the car, with the team telling Bottas he had sustained “floor damage”, and thereafter it reduced performance because of the loss of downforce, to the tune of 0.8sec per lap.
It meant Bottas could not keep pace with his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who leapfrogged him by pitting during a Virtual Safety Car period, and ultimately finished second.
With no marshals having gone onto the track to retrieve the piece of Vettel’s car – which became dislodged in a collision with Kevin Magnussen – at such an early stage when the field was close together, the 31-year-old was confused as to why no yellow flags were waved either.
“I got a warning from my engineers that they could see some gravel, maybe, on lap two in turn seven because they could see some kind of warning somewhere, but there was no yellow flag,” said Bottas, who now trails Hamilton by 85 points in the World Championship, quoted by Autosport.
“It was a big piece of debris and I didn’t have enough time to react, to go around it. I only had time to decide how I’m going to hit the debris and I decided to go straight over instead with the tyres [either side].
“So it would be good to get more of an understanding of why there wasn’t any sign of a big piece of carbon, because obviously it’s dangerous if there’s flying things around. But it sure didn’t help my race.”
Mercedes’ trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said that when the team finally extricated the debris from Bottas’ car, they were shocked by the size of it.
“We couldn’t quite believe how big it was and we didn’t quite know what it was,” said Shovlin.
“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.
“He did the right decision to go right over it as taking a tyre over it would very probably have been an instant puncture, but through no fault of his own it basically held him back for the whole afternoon.”