Valtteri Bottas was grappling with a misfire during the closing stages of the French Grand Prix, according to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. Bottas trailed Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton throughout the 53-lap event, and preserved a distant second place to the reigning World Champion.

But through the closing laps, he began to be reeled in by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who reduced a seven-second deficit to just a second at the chequered flag.

“It set in pretty late,” said Wolff. “I think it was probably six or seven laps to the end. We tried to manage it, which was successful and was under control then.

“It caused a little bit of a headache but overall I’m really happy with the team’s performance this weekend, I think it was probably our strongest showing so far this season.”

Bottas also explained that he and Mercedes adopted a conservative approach regarding tyres during the closing stages, mindful of the potential for a failure. “From my side, it was quite an uneventful race,” said Bottas.

“In the end, we were suffering from some front tyre blistering on the last stint, so we were concerned. “We went a bit on the conservative, safe side, so we made it to the end without any failure on the front tyres. “I had to look after the fronts on many of the corners and we were definitively on the conservative side. “Many times I was losing big chunks of time just by managing and being on the safe side.

“In the end, that’s why it became a bit close with Charles, closer than we wanted and after the VSC we struggled a bit to re-start the tyres and we lost a bit of temperature.” Bottas now trails Hamilton by 36 points in the championship.