Valtteri Bottas has lauded the work performed by the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport crew, as the reigning champions returned to form in qualifying for the French Grand Prix.
Bottas trailed team-mate Lewis Hamilton by just over a tenth of a second, despite briefly assuming the lead of the timing screens on his final run. Bottas’s weekend was thrown into jeopardy yesterday afternoon by a water leak that sprung fears that he would not be able to continue to use the new spec engine, claims that he waved away yesterday evening.
The Finn lamented his qualifying performance, despite securing a front row start – two-tenths ahead of third placed man Sebastian Vettel – saying, like Hamilton, that he did not get a “perfect lap together”. Furthermore, he bemoaned the lack of track time he experience on Friday afternoon and this morning’s washed out Free Practice 3 hour.
“We were strong today, the team did a really good job,” reflected Bottas. “I myself got an okay lap, but did not yet get a perfect lap together.
“It felt like I was playing catch-up all day after I missed a lot of track time in FP2 track time in FP3 was limited for everyone. So I was still finding gains in every run throughout qualifying.
“In the end it was not quite perfect, but it was enough to get us a front-row lockout.”
He added that Mercedes have done “an amazing job” in all aspects of the upgrades they have brought for Formula 1‘s first ever triple-header. A win tomorrow will help the Silver Arrows halt the momentum built up by Scuderia Ferrari by Vettel’s win at the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks’ ago.
Bottas also noted that with both Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen starting on the ultra-soft compound – opposed to Hamilton, Bottas and the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing pair on the super-softs – stunting the Ferraris may be a difficult task, despite a lack of overtaking opportunities at the Circuit Paul Ricard.
“The team has done an amazing job upgrading the car; every single upgrade, including the engine, helped to make the car better and the total package brought us the front row today,” he waxed.
“It seems like it might be difficult to overtake on this track, so it’s very good to start from the front. We will see different strategies tomorrow, Ferrari will start on a softer tyre than and it will be interesting to see what effect that has.”
He concluded by saying that he is not prepared to settle for second behind Hamilton, looking to drag himself back into championship contention with a win.
“We have a good car and should have all the tools to fight for a 1-2 tomorrow and I’ll do my best to fight for the win.”