Valtteri Bottas endured a horrendous Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend where he finished a lowly 12th on pure pace after qualifying just 10th.
With Bottas' F1 title hopes already looking thin at such an early stage of the season, his seat with Mercedes is also in serious danger with his contract up at the end of the year.
Whilst performances like those at Baku do nothing to help his cause, Mercedes technology director Mike Elliott has perhaps taken some of the heat off of his driver by suggesting a single lap was to blame for the difficult weekend.
“We have a set of rules that we apply to make it fair for the drivers race to race and one of those rules is that race by race, each driver gets to decide whether they go first or second in qualifying," Elliott explained.
"So, this weekend it was Lewis’s turn and Lewis decided because of the benefit of the tow that he would go second.
"Now, normally that wouldn’t matter too much because what we try to do is to get Valtteri in a good position on the track so that he can get a tow from his competitors, from the other cars.
"One of the difficulties we faced [in Baku] is we were trying to use a prep lap to get the best lap. That’s how we felt to get the quickest time.
"So, what we do is we go out of the pits, we go round the start/finish straight, we go round again and then start our fast lap. And that’s just about trying to get the tyres into the right window.
"Unfortunately for Valtteri and for us, our competitors weren’t doing the same. They were trying to get their fastest lap on their first lap after their out lap and that made it really difficult to try and get Valtteri in the right place relative to competitors so that he would get a good tow."
Bottas scuppered by qualifying red flag
The final runs of qualifying in Baku were disrupted by crashes involving AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda and Carlos Sainz in his Ferrari at turn four, bringing the session to a premature end.
Elliott pointed to the disruption as a key issue as to how Bottas' qualifying was impacted.
"If you look at what happened to [Charles] Leclerc as well, we had a similar problem there where we towed Leclerc up the start-finish straight, giving him an advantage in his own qualifying and that was from exactly the same problem," added Elliott.
"It was difficult to position ourselves relative to the competitors and on the very last run in qualifying, actually, Valtteri did end up in a good position for a tow.
"He was also on a really quick lap, probably not quick enough to be pole but quick enough to be a lot further up the time sheets but unfortunately the red flag put pay to that.”
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