Valtteri Bottas will start ninth for the British Grand Prix, but was left somewhat bemused by his lack of pace relative to team-mate Lewis Hamilton and the Ferrari duo in Q3 on Saturday when going fourth fastest.
The Finn had a five place grid penalty to serve after a gearbox change, so would only have lined up in sixth position at best had he secured pole on laptime. He had made a mistake in the first sector of the lap, but the Mercedes driver insisted this alone did not explain the pace deficit in the final qualifying session.
“Qualifying was tough,” he said. “The balance of the car wasn’t bad, but I really struggled for grip. The lock-up at Turn 3 on the final run cost me a bit of time, but it doesn’t explain the gap to the front.
“Lewis seemed to be able to get the heat into the tyres better than me today in the cooler conditions after the rain. I just didn’t have enough grip to compete for pole as the track dried out. We’ll look into that tonight.”
Bottas and his engineers were able to plan ahead thanks to the gearbox change being made prior to Saturday, electing to make his Q2 runs on the soft tyre instead of the default supersoft dry qualifying tyre. This will allow him to run a longer first stint, with the plan to capitalise on some clean air midway through the race.
“It’s not ideal to be starting P9 but we start tomorrow on a different tyre to the cars ahead of us, which could offer up some good opportunities to move forward. The Soft should be a good race tyre and I know anything is possible from there. I’ll have to be careful to not get stuck behind traffic, but that Soft tyre should give me the opportunity to move forward as others stop.
Despite the lacklustre showing during Q3, Bottas said he still had the equipment underneath him to turn the weekend around. Given Hamilton only narrowly missed out on a podium at Austria when starting from eighth due to a gearbox penalty of his own, Bottas seemed confident of achieving a reasonable degree of damage limitation.
“We definitely have a strong car here and we’ve been competitive all weekend, so I’ll be pushing all out tomorrow to make up some ground.”