The Williams Martini Racing team continued their strong Suzuka pace on Saturday by locking out the second row of the grid behind the all-dominating Mercedes team. Valtteri Bottas was the only other driver in the field to get within one second of the pole time, while Felipe Massa overcame his Friday issues to join his team-mate on row two.
Bottas knew the Mercedes duo would be out of reach, so he was happy to have qualified third in Japan, and even happier to be as close to Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton as he was. He wants to convert third on the grid into a podium on Sunday whatever the weather throws at Suzuka.
“The goal was to be third and fourth behind the Mercedes so it’s good to have accomplished that,” stated Bottas. “The gap to the top two was actually closer than we had expected so it’s positive to have closed that.
“Suzuka isn’t an easy circuit, and the chance of a typhoon tomorrow makes it even harder. I think we still have a chance to get a podium position regardless of the weather.”
After struggling for grip and pace on Friday, team-mate Massa was far happier with the performance of his car on Saturday, and although he missed out on third, he was happy to be fourth on the grid. He insists that regardless of the weather conditions on Sunday, the team must focus on getting a good result.
“Luckily all the issues from yesterday were sorted today,” said Massa. “It was a positive qualifying session for the team with both cars on the second row. I didn’t quite have enough for third today, but I know we have good pace in the car and I’m happy.
“We must concentrate on the job we have to do tomorrow regardless of what the weather is.”
Head of Performance Engineering at Williams Rob Smedley felt it was a good day for the team, and that the updates added to the car this weekend have appeared to have worked. The ex-Ferrari employee hopes the team can maintain their respective positions in the race on Sunday regardless of what weather greets them.
“Today has been a really good day’s work,” insisted Smedley. “The team have all worked very hard and the drivers have delivered on the track. The new aero package has worked well so that was the first step completed. We are in the positions we hoped for and we are confident going into tomorrow that we have a car to retain third and fourth.
“The rain could make for an interesting day tomorrow, but for that reason it is even more important that we have qualified at the front as being further behind is really difficult in the wet.”