Bottas starred in his first qualifying outing for his new team, taking sixth alongside his former Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.
But at the start the Finn suffered massive wheelspin as he was swallowed by the chasing pack. He continued to drop down the order on the first lap, coming through in 14th.
Bottas revealed that Alfa Romeo’s starts had been a recurring problem throughout the pre-season, which meant he had already lined up on the grid fearing the clutch issue would rear its head again.
“Honestly, I was not so confident going to the grid because 50% of the starts we’ve had in practice and testing had been bad,” Bottas said. “It’s an area we need to work on.
“I just had a big wheelspin. I cooked the rear tyres, still wheelspinning on third gear, and then the first lap I was sliding around and being a bit of a sitting duck.
“It’s a mechanical thing, that sometimes we have this vibration on the clutch. It happens 50% of the time.
“And when that happens it’s quite easy to break the traction. So yeah, it’s on the list and we’re working on it.”
Xevi Pujolar, Alfa’s F1 head of trackside engineering, explained that the Hinwil team had made “some progress” on addressing the clutch issue, which also struck Bottas’ teammate Zhou Guanyu.
Guanyu Zhou, Alfa Romeo C42
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
While the back-to-back nature of F1’s two opening races is not playing into the team’s hands, he is hopeful Alfa can mitigate the problem at this week’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
“It’s something that we made some progress [on], but still we are a bit fragile on this area,” Pujolar said. “Both cars experienced very poor start and then not only the start, but also then trying to get the grip and avoiding incidents during lap one.
“We’ll have to take some actions and try to understand a bit more, see how we can solve it, or try to mitigate as much as possible for the next week, because we don’t have so many days.
“We see that we’re not the only ones who are experiencing these kinds of issues, but for us it was worse.”
Bottas recovered to finish sixth on his Alfa debut thanks to solid race pace and relatively benign tyre degradation compared to some midfield rivals, while rookie Zhou grabbed a point in 10th after the late double retirement for both Red Bulls.
- F1 teams have stripped back liveries in bid to save weight
- F1 plans talks with Netflix and drivers over DTS’s fake drama