Valtteri Bottas made a poor return to the 2021 Formula 1 season on Friday. The Mercedes driver started well in FP1 and put up competitive lap times, however, the Finn struggled in FP2. With Mercedes running their race-pace program, Valtteri Bottas was way off the expected times and was visibly struggling with the car.
During the session, Valtteri Bottas complained about the car lacking grip and subsequently called the car undrivable.
After the session, Valtteri Bottas spoke to the media about his struggles in the Mercedes:
"It felt better than in testing in terms of how the car was feeling, so that’s good, but also it felt like we are still not there yet with the car balance."
“At least it was a trouble-free day and no big issues, but I think the main thing in my mind is that now we still have plenty of work to do if we want to fight for the pole and the win.”
Speaking about the specific areas of the car he found difficult, Valtteri Bottas said:
“I think the inconsistency in the balance and especially the rear-end of the car was one big highlight. In terms of set-up approach we tried to make it better and like I said it does feel better, but it’s not quite yet what I would like to have underneath [me]."
When questioned about his remarks about the Mercedes, Bottas admitted that was exactly how he felt about the car at that point.
"The last long run we did was pretty inconsistent and I couldn’t really put any laps together. The car, as I said, was undrivable at times. But it’s Friday and that is why we practice.”
Last opportunity for Valtteri Bottas?
Mercedes will have three drivers out of a contract at the end of this season - Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. The Finn has been on single-year extensions since 2019 and his performances over recent years have left a lot to be desired.
To add to this, George Russell finished ahead of Valtteri Bottas at the Sakhir Grand Prix last year, a race where he stepped in on short notice. Russell also pulled off a mesmerizing overtake on the Finn, which was a highlight of the weekend.
Unless Bottas can match Lewis Hamilton consistently this season, he could be on his way out of Mercedes.