Valtteri Bottas will line up second on grid for tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and the Finn is looking to end the season on a high. Lewis Hamilton will line up on the second row, in third place on his return to racing after quarantining with COVID-19 in Bahrain.
Bottas topped the times in Q3 as the clock counted down to zero, but Max Verstappen, who was still on an eligible timed lap, was able to pip him to pole position by a mere 0.025 seconds.
Understeer in the closing stages of qualifying, was a complaint from Bottas, who was then unable to improve his lap times while fighting it, he said: As the track cooled down towards the end of the session, I started to suffer with understeer, which made it tricky to improve the lap times.
“I think I still managed to get everything out of the car, but we simply weren’t quick enough today. We looked stronger on the Medium tyres, but you need to be quick on the softest compound to be on pole.”
Bottas will start the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on medium tyres, and is looking ahead to the race, hoping to battle max for first place. “The points are given out on Sunday though. We have a strong car and will start the race on the Mediums, so it’s all still to play for.” He said, “I think it’s going to be a good battle between Max, Lewis and myself and anything can happen as we’ve seen in F1 lately. I’m looking forward to an exciting season finale tomorrow and will fight hard to end the year on a high.”
“I still gave it my all and it was so close between us” – Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton will start the race in third place, after sitting out of last weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. The seven-time world champion will be back in the W11 for the final race of the season, but that wasn’t so plain sailing. “It’s definitely been a difficult weekend, getting back into the rhythm and finding the momentum again,” he said, “but I’m super grateful to be back with the team and trying to close out the strong season that we’ve had, in style.
“I’ve struggled with the balance of the car and we weren’t really gelling together, so it was a battle to get a lap together in qualifying. I still gave it my all and it was so close between us.”
Hamilton has helped Mercedes lock out pole position for all but two of the Grands Prix in the 2020 season, which were taken by Racing Point F1 Team’s Lance Stroll and Verstappen. The Brit, obviously dejected, added that he was disappointed to only be starting the race from third.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing to be P3, but congratulations to Max, he’s been driving great this year.” Lewis added. “Hopefully we’ll give Max a good run for his money tomorrow, with both Valtteri and myself starting right behind him.
“It makes it more exciting, that’s for sure, and there’s still some unknowns with the long runs. This is a tough track to overtake on but there’s still strategy to play with, and the start and first few laps are going to be important. So, there are opportunities and I’m excited to see how it’ll play out.”
“That was an exciting qualifying session” – Toto Wolff
In spite of both drivers feeling downtrodden by the qualifying session, Team Principal Toto Wolff was of the opposite opinion. With the margins between the top three down to 0.086 seconds it was an extremely close session. “That was an exciting qualifying session and it came down to very fine margins with less than a tenth of a second between the top three at the end.” said Toto. “We had a tough session in FP3 and were quite a long way off in terms of performance, so it was a pretty good recovery to end up P2 and P3 this evening. I was pleased to see a strong lap from Valtteri, who has had a difficult few weeks recently, and we are all very happy to see Lewis in the car and back out on track doing what he does best; after ten days away, his level of performance was impressive.
“Looking ahead to tomorrow’s race, we have two cars in the mix, so that will give us some options on strategy and a chance to put pressure on Max in front. We’re looking forward to an exciting final Grand Prix of the season – and we will be going flat out to try and finish the year on a high.”
“The struggle we had today came as a bit of a surprise” – Andrew Shovlin
Mercedes trackside engineering director, Andrew Shovlin, was surprised that the pair struggled through free practice three and qualifying after successful Friday practice sessions at the Yas Marina Circuit.
“It was evident from the word go in final practice that we were lacking grip and losing time to ourselves, especially in the final sector.” Said Shovlin “It was a bit better in qualifying, in so much as we were at least fighting for pole, but the midfield teams were much closer than normal and Red Bull were able to sneak ahead.
“We did manage to get both cars through the second session on the Medium compound which gives us the best chance for the race although Max is also on the same rubber. It does seem like we’ve not managed to land the Soft compound in quite the right window today and that’s something that we need to understand going forward.
“However, our car seems to be working well on the other compounds so we will be looking at the strategy tonight to understand how we can put our drivers into a position where they can challenge for the win tomorrow.”