Valtteri Bottas has made a startling comment about his car being different to Lewis Hamilton's at the Qatar Grand Prix. The Finn's race ended with retirement after a puncture, while the British driver went on to record a comfortable win, leading all the way from the start of the 57-lap race.

The former Williams driver started the race at the Losail circuit in sixth place after a late grid penalty dropped him three places. Despite starting ahead of Hamilton's title rival Max Verstappen - who started seventh - Bottas had a poor getaway from the line, and dropped a few places, while the Red Bull driver was up to fourth by Turn 2.

Bottas was outside the top 10 for the first 10 laps of the race and then needed Toto Wolff to come on the radio to push him on. He continued his progress and looked set to battle Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso for the final podium spot before suffering a tyre puncture on Lap 33 when he had only Verstappen and Hamilton ahead of him.

The Finnish racer continued after a quick change of tyres and the front wing, but eventually retired his car with the damage more severe than initially expected. However, Bottas came in for criticism after the race with many questioning his ability make his way through the grid like Hamilton had done in Brazil.

Valtteri Bottas
Lewis Hamilton is congratulated by Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas after winning a seventh drivers' crown Kenan Asyali/POOL

Former F1 driver Giedo van der Garde was harsh in his assessment and called Bottas' driving "limp" following his struggles, while even Wolff was at a loss to explain the reason for the Mercedes driver's struggles.

"We know that he can drive away when he's at the front. So the speed is there," Wolff said, as quoted on GrandPX News. "I have absolute confidence in him for the next races and I hope that we will have a good car. Then Valtteri will be at the front again because we need him there."

However, Bottas has revealed that there was a discrepancy between his car and Hamilton's, which was the reason he did not have the pace his teammate showed throughout the weekend. The Finn's comments were cryptic, especially with plenty of rumors swirling around the pitlane about Mercedes' rear wing assembly providing them an advantage in terms of straight line speed.

"I have found out the reason, but I cannot give details," Bottas was quoted as saying by the Finnish newspaper Ilta Sanomat. "But my car was no longer quite the same as it was, nor was it the same as Lewis. There were little differences in the cars."

Mercedes will again be the favourites when the F1 juggernaut arrives for the first ever race in Saudi Arabia in two weeks' time. Hamilton currently trails Verstappen by eight points with two races remaining in the campaign.

Toto Wolff
Toto Wolff says the Mercedes car retains the black livery to reflect the team's commitment to diversity Steve ETHERINGTON/Daimler AG Mercedes