Valtteri Bottas labelled his front row effort in qualifying for Formula 1’s Canadian Grand Prix as “pretty good” but admitted it is not “perfect” to have Sebastian Vettel ahead of him on the grid.
Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport driver Bottas was narrowly pipped to pole position by Scuderia Ferrari’s Vettel by 0.093s after the four-time champion lowered his initial benchmark time to a 1m:10.764s, a new all-time track record at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Bottas also became only the second team-mate to outqualify Lewis Hamilton in Canada – the other being Nico Rosberg in 2014. The Finnish driver was pleased with his efforts, but felt that a fifth career pole was in reach.
“I was able to find a lot of performance from FP3 to qualifying and it felt like I got everything out of the car,” he explained.
“It’s a good result, although it is not perfect to start behind the Ferrari, but we knew that they would bring some improvements for the weekend.”
The Mercedes team was expected to introduce its first power unit upgrade ahead of the weekend, owing to the power sensitive nature of the circuit. But a minor reliability concern led to that being scrapped, and both Hamilton and Bottas reverting to the units used since the season-opener in Australia.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen was fastest in every practice session ahead of Saturday’s qualifying hour, and Bottas believes Red Bull to also be a “threat” on Sunday.
While both cars from Mercedes and Ferrari will each start on the ultrasoft tyre, having used it in Q2, both Red Bull’s will begin on the faster, but less durable hypersoft Pirelli compound.
“We’re happy that we qualified on the ultrasoft tyre in Q2,” explained Bottas. “I think it is the right choice for our car.
“It will be interesting to see how it does [at] the start of the race, especially because [both] Red Bull’s will start on the hypersoft.”
Verstappen split the Mercedes drivers in Q3, for third on the grid, while Ricciardo could only manage sixth on the grid.
“Red Bull will be a threat, but it’s cool to see three teams fighting for the win,” said Bottas. “Overall it seems the margins are very small, between the top three teams, so the strategy could really be the key. It should be an interesting race.”