Valtteri Bottas said he had no chance to avoid the debris that got lodged under his car at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and wrecked his Formula 1 victory hopes.
The Finn had kept the lead from pole position at the start of the race at Imola and appeared comfortable out front early on.
However, on the second lap at the Tosa corner, he struck a broken endplate piece from Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari, which had come off when the German collided with Kevin Magnussen on the first lap.
Bottas aimed to run over the debris straight on, and so avoid the risk of a puncture, but the piece got lodged under the Finn’s car and caused damage to his floor.
“The start was good, and that was one of the main things to get right today,” said Bottas afterwards, who lost aerodynamic performance thanks to the damaged floor.
“On lap two, suddenly out of turn seven, there was debris. I didn’t have time to avoid it. I aimed in the middle of the car at least, and tried not to run over that with the tyres.
“But obviously it caused some damage or something which made the car quite tricky to drive.”
The loss of performance that Bottas suffered allowed Lewis Hamilton to overcut him at the pi stops, and also dropped the Finn into the clutches of Max Verstappen.
Following several lock-ups as he pushed as hard as he could, Bottas was unable to keep his Red Bull rival behind him.
“I was really pushing hard to try and avoid Max getting through,” he said. “I had to push over all my limits and that led to a mistake, so I was unlucky.”
Bottas eventually came home in second place after Verstappen suffered a late puncture and spun off the track at the second chicane, bringing out a late safety car.
Mercedes was able to remove the Vettel debris during a subsequent safety car pit stop, but it was too late for it not to have had a dramatic impact on his race.
Team boss Toto Wolff said: “It was stuck underneath his car. It was debris he over ran over on lap two and he couldn’t avoid it.”
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