Malaysia GP: Mercedes 'worried' by Valtteri Bottas after poor qualifying
Bottas' poor form continues in Malaysia as he qualifies fifth
By Matt Morlidge and Jonathan Green at Sepang
Last Updated: 10/10/17 12:00pm
Valtteri Bottas says he needs to take a "good look in the mirror" after another faltering qualifying at the Malaysia GP, while Mercedes have admitted they are "worried" by the Finn's recent form.
Bottas was a disappointing fifth and some 0.6seconds off pole-sitting team-mate Lewis Hamilton in Sepang - and he has not out-qualified the championship leader since before the summer break.
Saturday's deficit was also consistent with a gap of over half a second to Hamilton in every qualifying session since the season resumed, while he is now 51 points behind the championship leader in the standings.
Bottas post-break qualifying struggles
|Belgium||Pole position||Third||+ 0.541|
|Italy||Pole position||Fourth||+ 0.736|
"For me, I'm still really far away," Bottas said after Saturday's qualifying session. "It's tricky being such a big amount of time off the pace. As a driver it's difficult to accept.
"I need to try and find the answer and not let it get in my head. It's so easy to try too much in this sport but I need to have a look good in the mirror again."
Bottas was brought in as Nico Rosberg's replacement in 2017 by Toto Wolff, formerly part of his management team, and he initially impressed by sealing two pole positions and two race wins in the first half of the season.
But his post-August malaise is starting to concern the Mercedes boss.
"Yes I'm worried because I want Valtteri to do well and everybody wants Valtteri to do well," Wolff explained. "You need to have the car in the sweet spot to extract maximum grip and that is not easy.
"Valtteri seems to struggle more with finding the sweet spot than Lewis. There are so many factors involved but I have no doubt that with his intelligence that he's going to fit the jigsaw together.
"We have many more races to do together to undo the problem and very good drivers are able to pick themselves out of a difficult situation. I have no doubt that Valtteri will do that."
Bottas earned a contract extension with Mercedes for 2018, but was only offered a one-year deal.
To upgrade or not to upgrade?
Mercedes split their approach in qualifying when it came to the new aerodynamic upgrades, and that appeared to be one of the main issues for Bottas.
While Hamilton opted for the older package after struggling in Friday's practice sessions, Bottas stuck with the new parts and said he ended up with a "completely different car".
However, Wolff was quick to deny that the upgrade was in fact worse than before.
"I don't think it's the upgrade issue [for Valtteri]," Wolff told Sky F1. "I think we are going to run it in Japan, all the data says it is good."