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Bottas: Sauber F1 team needed Jeddah "wake-up call" after early struggles

Valtteri Bottas admits Sauber needed "a wake-up call" in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after a frustrating start to the 2024 Formula 1 season.

Valtteri Bottas, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The Swiss outfit has twice been hit by expensive pitstop issues, with Bottas delayed in Bahrain and his team-mate Zhou Guanyu affected in Saudi Arabia.

In addition, the C44 is not putting enough energy into its tyres which has compromised one-lap performance in qualifying and also left Bottas struggling on the hard compound during the Jeddah race.

"I think it needs to be a wake-up call,” said Bottas when asked by Autosport about the team’s disappointing start to the season.

“Obviously, it's only race two out of 24 and we've got things coming in the pipeline. But we definitely need to improve, not just the pace, but also operationally, now we've had both drivers having big issue on pitstops in two races.

“I think we've got some bits coming for Australia. Now we have two weeks to try and solve the pitstop issue. It was the same issue with Zhou with a cross threading.

“So that's something we need to fix, because even if we make the car faster, if we have long pitstops then it's not ideal.”

Logan Sargeant, Williams FW46 battles with Valtteri Bottas, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber C44

Logan Sargeant, Williams FW46 battles with Valtteri Bottas, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber C44

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Bottas was one of only two drivers to start on the soft compound in Jeddah, along with Oliver Bearman.

The early safety car period sent most of the field into the pits, and having switched to hard tyres Bottas began to struggle. Later he made an extra unplanned second stop to return to softs, and he eventually finished 17th, beating only the delayed Zhou.

"We thought for us soft/hard would be the best, and try to be aggressive with the stop lap,” said the Finn.

“But in the end, the issue was the hard compound. We couldn't make it work, couldn't create enough temperature, it took at least 15 laps to get some kind of grip on it. By that time we lost too much.

"It was quite clear today that it just didn't work, the softer compounds were way better. So I think with our car it feels like it's difficult to generate a lot of energy to the tyres.

“That's probably why the race pace was quite good in Bahrain, because the tarmac is rough, and you need to keep the tyres cool. On a tarmac like this [in Jeddah] it just felt like we couldn't generate enough temperature."

Zhou Guanyu, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber C44

Zhou Guanyu, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber C44

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Team representative Alessandro Alunni Bravi said there were some positive signs in Jeddah despite the tyre issue experienced by Bottas, with Zhou’s potential disguised by failing to set a lap time in qualifying due to an FP3 crash and then both the pitstop delay and an engine temperature issue in the race.

“Unfortunately in the first part of the stint Valtteri was struggling to have the hard compound in the right temperature window,” the Italian told Autosport.

“In the second part he was competitive, and his lap times were solid and consistent. Then we decided to just do a stop for the soft in order to maybe benefit from a safety car in the last part of the race, because it was the only opportunity for us to go back to the fight for the points.

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“Zhou was really consistent on mediums. Unfortunately we had to manage high temperatures. I think this was also the result of the accident in FP3, because we had to change most of the parts on the car.

“In the first part of the race, he was forced to have a lot of lift and coasting, and that compromised the possibility to fight with [Kevin] Magnussen and [Nico] Hulkenberg.”

On a positive note, he added: “The pitstop compromised his race, but the performance was solid. This is why we are confident that in Melbourne we can do a further step. But we need to materialise this performance and our potential with a trouble-free race.”

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