Valtteri Bottas was able to put his poor Qualifying performances from the opening two races behind him in Portugal on Saturday as he took pole position for the seventeenth time in his career.
The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver acknowledged that tyre warm-up had been a factor in his poor start to the 2021 season but putting focus into that earlier in the weekend paid dividends as he was able to deny team-mate Lewis Hamilton pole by just 0.007 seconds.
“We worked hard to figure out the issues I was experiencing in qualifying, we put things right and this is the result – it’s more like how it should be, so I’m happy,” said Bottas. “In the first two races, I knew the speed was there but my main issue was tyre warm-up.
“We’ve put a lot of focus on that, we learned some lessons and I always knew our hard work would pay off. The key was to stay calm, execute the plan and focus on the small details, particularly on the out-laps.”
Bottas knows that the important day is Sunday, and he knows to expect a close battle involving his team-mate and with the two Red Bull Racing drivers, Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez.
“We’ve been stronger than expected which is a positive surprise but it’s only qualifying, I’m already thinking about tomorrow,” added the Finn. “We know the Red Bulls have a strong race car and we are expecting an epic battle.”
“It wasn’t meant to be but Valtteri did a great job today” – Lewis Hamilton
Team-mate Hamilton could have achieved a milestone on Saturday, but he will remain on ninety-nine career pole positions for at least another week.
Hamilton felt disappointed with his performance during Qualifying, with mistakes being made that left him on the back foot. One of those was seeing his opening lap time in Q1 being deleted for track limits, meaning an extra run was needed.
He felt his best lap came in Q2 and believed he could not get the best out of his W12 when it mattered in Q3, which allowed team-mate Bottas to deny him top spot.
“Not that enjoyable of a session because I couldn’t get that many good laps in but I’m not too frustrated, I only did one good lap and that was in Q2,” said Hamilton. “Of course I’d have loved to put more good laps together but it was tricky out there.
“It’s a slippery track, the tyres are hard so you need to do multiple laps to put temperature into them and it’s quite a peaky balance – it works for a second and then falls away very quickly, it’s on a knife-edge.
“It wasn’t meant to be but Valtteri did a great job today and I’m just focused on the race. Now is the time to understand strategy for tomorrow and work out where the opportunities lie.
“It’s not an easy track to follow but we shall we see – I hope we have good enough pace to fight for the win, tomorrow we’ll go all in.”