According to Mercedes sporting director Ron Meadows, Valtteri Bottas‘ sluggish start was down to poor grip. It was not a clutch issue, like the Finn believed.
Bottas was on pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix, and looked set to lead into the first corner. With limited overtaking chances at the Circuit de Catalunya, a win was almost guaranteed.
However, whatever that could go wrong, went wrong for the Finn as his Mercedes got slightly bogged down when the lights went off. Teammate Lewis Hamilton had a better getaway and outran his team mate into Turn 1. From that point onwards, Hamilton did not surrender the lead at all to anyone.
In the aftermath of the race, Bottas believed that a “strange” clutch issue was to blame for his launch off the line. However, Meadows suspected that the patch of tarmac under the Mercedes was the cause.
“We believe it was just a lack of grip on the pole position side,” he said in the team’s post-race ‘Pure Pitwall‘ debrief video.
“If you look at the support races, more often than not the second position guy or even third or fourth had a better start than the pole guy.”
“Yeah, that’s one of the elements,” added trackside engineer Andrew Shovlin.
“You get a bit of wheelspin and then the wheels are slipping, the clutch is slipping, there’s a bit of an interaction.
“We’re going to get all the bits and have a good look at them anyway this week to understand it.
“At the moment we think the number one issue is with the grip and not an issue with the car.”
Mercedes’ Bottas confessed that he was mystified by the new phenomenon in Barcelona.
“I’ve never had this kind of feeling before,” he admitted. “We can definitely see the vibration on the clutch and the abnormal behaviour, which cost me that few crucial metres on the way to Turn 1.
“I kind of felt it just by G-force, it was going up and down, and the whole car was vibrating, and we can already see from the data that because of that my hand and the car was vibrating as well.
“It was with very high friction, biting and releasing, so I lost quite a few metres with that in the initial part. The rest of the start was pretty good.”