SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas believes his three-place grid penalty for spinning in the pit lane during practice for the Austrian Grand Prix was too harsh and suspects complaints from rival teams led to the decision.
Bottas finished second in qualifying on Saturday but will drop to fifth on the grid for Sunday’s race as a result of his penalty.
The Mercedes driver was penalised for dangerous driving after he lost control of his car as he crossed the painted line that divides the pit boxes and the pit lane, leaving his Mercedes parked across the flow of traffic.
He managed to avoid a collision with the pit wall but had to be pushed back in the right direction by nearby mechanics from rival team McLaren.
“In my personal view, it’s quite harsh,” Bottas said when asked for his opinion on the penalty after qualifying. “I never imagined after that there would be a penalty [for that type of incident].”
Soon after the incident, McLaren’s team manager, Paul James, raised his concerns about the spin in a radio message to the FIA race director, Michael Masi.
“Michael, that’s absolutely ridiculous,” James said. “They could have taken out one of the guys [mechanics] or the pit wall.”
Bottas felt the messages were targeted at trying to encourage the stewards to investigate the incident and issue a penalty.
“Of course the other teams, when they see the opportunity they complain that it’s dangerous, etc., so that we get penalised,” he said.
“That’s how it goes, everyone is always trying to screw you over in this sport. Yes, for sure it can be a dangerous situation if there’s a lot of people in the pitlane…”
One of the contributing factors to the spin was Bottas trying to leave his pit box in second gear, which he did intentionally to try to reduce wheelspin.
“It definitively caught me out, I never imagined that would happen on the pit lane,” he added. “We decided to try something different on the launch and start in second gear, because sometimes with the higher gear and the lower revs you can manage [it better], as the wheelspin in the initial part is not so aggressive.
“But then, once I got the wheelspin it really caught me out, maybe the lines on the pit lane were still slightly damp from the drizzle and I just couldn’t hold it.
“Obviously quite a different behavior in second gear than in first gear. So, that happened.”