Valtteri Bottas saw his fading Formula 1 title hopes take another hit after an anonymous run to fifth place for Mercedes in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
Bottas had been closing on leading pair Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel before the summer break, only to slip back since F1 returned to action at the end of August.
Sitting 51 points behind Mercedes teammate Hamilton heading into the weekend, Bottas said he was still not yet ready to give up his hopes of the championship and throw his support behind the Briton.
However, Bottas may be left to reconsider after struggling for pace throughout the weekend in Malaysia, qualifying and finishing fifth despite putting pressure on eventual winner Max Verstappen early on.
“Today was difficult. I was trying everything I can, I was giving it all I had, but I was lacking pace and I was sliding around,” Bottas said.
“The start was definitely the best part of the day. It was really good, I could actually attack a little bit and fight for positions. But not long after that I just started to drop down and couldn’t keep up with the others.
“In the first stint I had quite a lot of understeer, so I was struggling with the balance. The story of the race was managing the tire temperatures. If I tried harder, then I started to overheat the tire and slide even more, so I had to manage everything and that’s why I was so slow.
“We need to analyze the race because the upgrade package should have been quite a step forward in terms of downforce, but I couldn’t really see it. There are still a lot of things we need to try to understand, we need to learn from today.
“For Japan, we need to make sure we choose all the right bits for the car, and hopefully we will see some cooler temperatures.”
Bottas will head to next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix 59 points back from Hamilton with five races remaining this season.