Bottas surprised by Williams’ lack of pace at Suzuka

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Valtteri Bottas was surprised to be unable to fight for a podium finish in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix as he was forced to settle for a fifth place finish at Suzuka.

Bottas qualified third on Saturday behind the two Mercedes drivers, and looked poised to battle with the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen for the final podium position.

The Finn dropped behind Vettel at the start, but stayed third when pole-sitter Nico Rosberg was forced wide at turn one by teammate Lewis Hamilton and dropped to fourth place.

Despite having the measure of Rosberg during the first stint, Bottas lost the position when the German driver made a move at the final chicane with fresher tires.

As the race wore on, Bottas’ pace dropped, allowing Raikkonen to catch up and take P4 at the final round of pit stops.

Speaking after the race, Bottas admitted that he expected to be fighting for a top three finish at Suzuka, but was pleased with the haul of points that he came away with.

“Not a perfect day for us, but we will take the ten points,” Bottas said. “I was hoping for a podium, but the pace wasn’t as good as we had expected.

“Defending from the quicker cars was hard and I think we should have pitted earlier for the final stop, but it’s always easier to say that after the race.”

Teammate Felipe Massa had a race to forget as a first lap clash with Daniel Ricciardo left him with a puncture, dropping him to the very back of the field. The Brazilian eventually finished in 17th place.

“A very tough day for me today right from the first lap,” Massa said. “I had a bad start and then had contact with Ricciardo and it took me a long time to get back to the pits. From there it was the end of the race barring any miracle.

“We have scored some decent points for the constructors’ championship with Valtteri’s fifth but I had the car to contribute a good haul of points as well. We have to regroup and get those points back at the next race.”