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Debris cost Bottas up to eight tenths of a second per lap · RaceFans

The debris Valtteri Bottas hit and collected on the second lap of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix cost him as much as eight tenths of a second per lap, according to Mercedes.

Bottas ran over a piece of Sebastian Vettel’s car at Tosa on lap two, following the Ferrari driver’ collision with Kevin Magnussen. A piece lodged in his bargeboard, disrupting the airflow over his car.

The performance loss caused by the damage was so great that Mercedes didn’t believe what their sensors were telling them about the car’s loss of grip, according to trackside operations director Andrew Shovlin.

“We were seeing a big drop in performance,” he said. “But the issue is the scale of the drop in terms of lap time was seven or eight tenths of a seconds. We weren’t really believing the sensors because we were looking at how Valtteri was not pushing particularly hard and able to do reasonable lap times when we needed to build a bit of a gap.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Imola, 2020
The debris was removed when Bottas made his second pit stop

“It’s very difficult to put an absolute lap time loss on these because they can often affect the car in a quite non-linear way around the circuit or different behaviour in different directions at corners. But early on we couldn’t quite believe how big it was and we didn’t know what it was.”

Mercedes weren’t able to remove the piece until Bottas made his second pit stop, partly because it was so difficult to see.

“When you look at the size of the bit and the fact that it’s red, you can’t believe that we couldn’t see it on the cameras. But it was lodged in, and where it was the black area was visible. And because the whole car’s black there we couldn’t see that.

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“If we’d been able to see where it was we could have possibly done a more effective job of getting it out at the first stop. But it’s unlucky for him.”

Bottas said he saw the piece of debris on the track and chose to avoid hitting it with a tyre, which meant he had to run over it. “He definitely made the right decision to go straight over it,” said Shovlin.

Part of Vettel's Ferrari lodged into Bottas's bargeboard
Part of Vettel’s Ferrari lodged into Bottas’s bargeboard

“Taking that onto a tyre would very likely cause an instant puncture. So that was a good call. But through no fault of his own, it basically held him back for the whole the whole afternoon.”

The loss of performance continued to compromise Bottas after his pit stop. Team mate Lewis Hamilton delayed his first pit stop and pulled out a gap over Bottas by running longer.

He eventually had enough time in hand to make a pit stop and come out ahead. Then the Virtual Safety Car was deployed, which ensured he was able to do so comfortably.

Had that not happened, Shovlin says it was would have been “extremely close” between the pair when Hamilton rejoined the track after his pit stop. “There were times when Lewis just had the gap, but he had the gap by half a second or so.

“The problem is you’re dropping him out on hard tyres that have got a warm-up curve, and that means that they are down by a second or a second and a half. And while he looked like he could build it, we didn’t really want to sort of have him dropping into that fight with Valtteri and Max on cold tyres, if we could actually get the gap.

“So he was sort of getting towards having it and then obviously the VSC came out, which just made it quite easy situation for him to deal with.”

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2020 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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