Valtteri Bottas drove in an official Formula One practice session for the first time today and impressed with the 11th quickest time in first practice. The reigning GP3 champion stood in for Bruno Senna at Williams and outpaced Pastor Maldonado in the sister car, with the Finn enjoying the experience despite the intense heat.
“I am only the ninth Finnish person ever to drive during a Grand Prix weekend, which is a nice fact that I've just found out. After testing in Barcelona, my focus was on coming here and I've prepared myself as I would for a race weekend, both physically and mentally. I had a good rhythm from the beginning of P1 and we completed our programme ahead of P2. It was so hot out there, the hardest conditions I've driven in. While you are driving you don't feel it as much but as soon as you stop the heat really hits you.”
Senna admitted that handing his car over for first practice compromised him ahead of FP2 but nevertheless feels happy with the progress made so far this weekend.
“We had more work to do this afternoon having not run in P1, but our pace on longer runs looked good. We still need to improve throughout P3 tomorrow morning, but we have a good direction to go in. The track is very different to Australia and it will be a long, tough race but I am looking forward to it.”
Senna was 17th at the end of the day with Pastor Maldonado 11th and the Venezuelan believes he has the pace to build on last weekend's strong showing.
“We've had a good day of running in Malaysia. The team have done a great job and we completed our test programme without any problems. The car looks consistent and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. It will be a challenge to get into Q3, but I will be pushing hard to achieve that.”
Chief Operations Engineer Mark Gillan was happy with the performance of all three drivers and thinks they are in for another competitive weekend.
“We have had a very constructive day’s running, with all three drivers performing well in hot and humid conditions. We had no issues and completed the whole test programme. We are pleased with our preparation for the race, and we will look to build on this performance throughout the weekend.”