After a tough weekend at the Clipsal 500 Adelaide over the weekend, defending V8 Supercars champion Mark Win¬terbottom is eyeing a dominant showing in the Formula One Australian Grand Prix kick off this year, as he did in 2015.
The No. 1 Bottle-O driver found Adelaide a circuit that is quickly becoming his bogey track. Winter bottom has never won a race at the street track and was off the pace on Sunday and Monday. He ended 12th place in the championship standings after finishing ninth on Monday and 11th on Sunday.
Nissan’s Michael Caruso is a surprise championship leader, with Jamie Whincup ominously sitting in second place. The gap from first to Winterbottom in 12th is 57 points.
“The way the points are, we’re sitting not too far off the lead and had a really bad weekend, so we’ll hopefully do what we did last year and kick into gear at the Grand Prix and get our season back on track,” Winter bottom told v8supercars.com.au.
“But we weren’t quick enough this weekend on the hard tyres. Qualified well on the softs [tires], but we weren’t quick enough on the hard,” he added.
The Bottle-O racer said he’d need to watch the race back to fully understand what happened, with rain, rules and pit strategy defining the race that was won by South Australian Nick Percat.
The Prodrive Racing stable has a team of engineers that work together on the cars and strategies, but Winterbottom admitted he and second-year engineer Jason Gray went for the wrong play on Monday.
His was one of five cars that did not change to wet weather tires on the grid once the heavens opened up, and had to start from pit lane after changing tires. He made a lucky save at turn eight before the race even began.
Bravery is often rewarded at the Clipsal 500, so Winter¬bottom couldn’t be too hard on the call.
“The engineer makes the call so he decided to start on slicks and it’s a roll of the dice – it was obviously the wrong call,” Winterbottom said.
At last year’s Clipsal 500 he placed fifth, 11th and fifth and left seventh in the championship standings before total domination at the not-for-points Australian Grand Prix.
He described this year’s season start as okay.
“We didn’t have the best pace, but the car was a lot different in that [Monday] race to what it was in the previous one. I’m happy we made progress on the changes we were struggling [with],” he added.