Bottas says Zhou ‘in another league’ to him in Baku

Jon Wilde
Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu during the Azerbaijan GP. Baku June 2022.

Alfa Romeo cars of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Baku June 2022.

Valtteri Bottas has admitted he was unable to live with his rookie team-mate Zhou Guanyu’s pace during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Alfa Romeo arrived with high hopes in Baku, but with the caveat of needing a “trouble-free weekend” to realise the full potential of the C42.

But it was anything but, with the pace that has earned Bottas a trio of top-six finishes this season sadly lacking as he struggled to even reach Q2 and then started 15th – just behind his colleague.

In the race, the Finn narrowly failed to add to his 40 points this term by coming home 11th, but he was outshone by Zhou who overtook him among some impressive moves in the first half of the race before agonisingly being told by the team his car would have to be retired as an issue had been spotted.

The performance turnaround was an unusual state of affairs for Alfa Romeo over the context of the season, with Zhou having only scored one point so far, and Bottas felt there was something palpably amiss with his car which had been given some updates on Saturday.

Asked by what had caused his lack of pace, Bottas said: “I wish I knew. It almost feels like something is fundamentally wrong because we were so off the expected lap times and pace – even Williams were faster than us at the end of the race, which is not where our car should be.

“We changed from the old package to the new package for Saturday and since then the issue started with the behaviour of the car. We’ll have a look. I’m pretty convinced we will find something.

“From Friday to Saturday it just felt like we lost rear grip which is a bit strange because with the parts we changed, it should have been increasing the rear end. So we need to find out what’s gone wrong.

“I had no chance to match Zhou’s lap times today – he was in another league, almost one second faster, which for me is quite strange.”

Xevi Pujolar, Alfa Romeo’s head of trackside engineering, was on the same page as Bottas in regard to what had happened.

“Since Saturday we started to have some question marks on Valtteri’s car,” said Pujolar. “And [in the race] it was clear something was wrong. We need to understand what it is, but we can see something isn’t right.

“Both cars are certainly the same configuration. I would say it’s the same set-up, everything was the same. There’s something that’s not working as expected.”