Valtteri Bottas said he was “confused” by his “weird” lack of performance in Azerbaijan, which left him unable to match Aston Martin’s pace.
The Finn has endured many more bad moments than good so far this year and Baku was a new low, for he did not finish higher than ninth in any timed session.
In the race, the Mercedes driver, who had started 10th, eventually finished 12th and at one point was in danger of finding himself challenged for a second time this season by George Russell – the duo had crashed at Imola when the Williams man was trying to overtake.
But it was a comparison with Aston Martin, a Mercedes customer team, that Bottas reflected on as he left Baku with zero points for the third time in six 2021 races.
“I can’t remember this kind of weekend,” said Bottas, whose team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, had been a contender for the podium minimum throughout the race until going off the circuit at the restart with two laps remaining.
“There have been weekends when I’ve had bad sessions, but always at some point I’ve had the pace. But last weekend it was all the time, and during the weekend I haven’t understood what was wrong.
“I know myself when there’s the limit and I can’t go faster and then you’re still six, seven, eight-tenths behind. It’s not normal. It’s something we need to understand before going to France.
“The main issue was lack of pace and just not being quick enough. Quite early in the race I could see I just didn’t match the cars ahead – especially when one of the Aston Martins was ahead of me, I just couldn’t keep up.”
“I’m confused, it’s really weird.”
Although Mercedes as a whole have been way below their usual sky-high standards in the last couple of races, Bottas is also struggling to come to terms with a sudden big disparity in his lap times compared to Hamilton’s.
“We might find something in the car but if not, the only thing must be the tyres,” the 31-year-old told Motorsport.com.
“But we are running the same tyre pressures and same temperatures. I’m keen to find out but at the moment I don’t know.
“We started the weekend with the same wing [before switching to different spec] and still I was all the time behind Lewis by quite a big margin.”