Valtteri Bottas will start the Russian Grand Prix from third place on the grid after seeing the Scuderia Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen lock out the front row during qualifying on Saturday.
The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver was only 0.095 seconds away from a second consecutive pole position, but admitted that throughout the weekend at the Sochi Autodrom his team have been on the back foot compared to Ferrari, and have not been able to get the tyres to work as quickly as the Maranello-based squad.
“I think we can see Ferrari were quicker today,” insisted Bottas. “We were close in the end, but not close enough. All weekend they’ve had the upper hand and they’ve managed to extract more out of the tyres.
“They are looking very strong here and, as we’ve seen so far this year, Ferrari have a good race pace and we expect it to be the same tomorrow.”
Bottas believes it could be close between the two teams during the race on Sunday, and is hoping to be able to get ahead of the Ferrari duo and perhaps take his maiden victory, especially after changes made to the W08 should mean a better race pace.
“We made an improvement from yesterday: it wasn’t quite enough but I think the changes we made overnight should help us in the race,” said Bottas. “Tomorrow is where it counts and starting on the second row is still not a bad place to begin the race.
“There’s a very long run down into Turn 2 and a lot of slipstreaming. Ferrari is ahead today, but hopefully not tomorrow.”