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Mercedes F1 recruit Bottas puzzled by 'strange' Bahrain GP pace

Bottas, Mercedes, Bahrain

Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas admitted he left the Bahrain Grand Prix feeling "strange" and confused given the way his pace had fallen away following his first Formula 1 pole.

While Bottas's difficulties in the first stint, which he led, were explained by the failure of a Mercedes generator on the grid leaving him with incorrect tyre pressures, he continued to struggle even after changing tyres.

Eight reasons Mercedes lost the Bahrain Grand Prix

He twice had to let faster team-mate Lewis Hamilton past and finished 20 seconds off winner Sebastian Vettel in third.

A lengthy debrief on Sunday night failed to find a reason for the performance deficit.

"Stint one, we can explain the performance with the tyre pressures being just way too high," Bottas said. "It was feeling like on marbles.

"Stint two and three, there is no explanation why the rear end wasn't working.

"The slow pace was definitely because of the balance and because of the rear end, so we have no answers yet what was causing it. For me, it wasn't normal.

"I was running out of all the tools with the diff and with the brake bias, trying to cure the oversteer and trying to improve the stability from the rear, but there was no way.

"When the tyres were new, they were OK, but very quickly when you rise up with the surface temperatures, it gets more and more tricky.

"A strange race for me missing so much pace. It's not so easy for me to explain."

Though pole had been a boost after a spin behind the safety car left Bottas kicking himself in the previous race in China, he admitted he could not class the Bahrain weekend as a success given his race slump.

"Waking up, the only thing in my mind was the win," he said.

"As a team, at least, we should have won but we didn't. Ferrari did a better job.

"For me, leaving here is a little bit of a strange feeling.

Bottas, Mercedes, Bahrain

"I don't know why the pace is so poor.

"I know that gap that was there doesn't just come from driving.

"I'm sure we'll find out something [to explain] why I struggled more than Lewis."

Bottas is currently third in the drivers' standings, 30 points off Vettel and 23 adrift of Hamilton.

He remains convinced he will be in the championship fight this year.

"Even in the first race in Australia, and also in China when the car was working, the race pace has been good. So I know the race pace is there," Bottas said.

"We still have 17 races to go. That is a lot.

"So I'm not thinking too far. I feel like it's still early days."

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