Valtteri Bottas felt his Qualifying lap that took him to pole position for the Sprint Qualifying race at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza was ‘beautiful’, with the Finn aiming to take maximum points on Saturday afternoon.
The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver set a best time of 1:19.555 to deny team-mate Lewis Hamilton top spot by 0.096 seconds, and he was delighted to see the team ending a significant distance ahead of main rivals Red Bull Racing.
“Pole position feels great and I really had fun and enjoyed it out there,” said Bottas. “It was a beautiful lap, which I managed to save for the end.
“I felt relaxed in the car and I am happy with our work as a team. The car has felt good all day, with our performance little stronger than we perhaps expected, especially when you look at the gap to Red Bull. Hopefully it will be similar on the race pace for us.”
Bottas knows he will be starting at the back of the grid for Sunday’s main race at Monza due to grid penalties for an engine change, so he will be looking to take what he can from Saturday’s Sprint Qualifying.
“I know I’ll be starting from the back on Sunday with the PU change but the focus is on tomorrow and trying to extract as many points as possible,” said the Finn. “We know Sunday will be a fight, but our pace is good and I’m sure we can finish strong then too.
“But our eyes are set on tomorrow and hopefully we have another good day.”
“I struggled a bit in that last session for whatever reason” – Lewis Hamilton
Team-mate Hamilton will line-up alongside Bottas on the front row on Saturday, and he praised the Finn for what he felt was a ‘mega lap’ on Friday.
Hamilton admitted he struggled for performance in Q3 and was unable to match the pace of his team-mate, but he was still able to put the car on the front row of the grid, ahead of championship rival Max Verstappen.
“First, I want to congratulate Valtteri, that was really a mega lap and he was just quicker,” said Hamilton. “I couldn’t match it at the end so very well deserved. Especially with the news that went out earlier this week, it’s great to see Valtteri driving so well.
“From my end, I struggled a bit in that last session for whatever reason, so not the best Qualifying for me. But in general, it was close between us all out there and I’m happy to have a front row lockout for the team.”
Hamilton says it is important to get a good start in Saturday’s Sprint Qualifying in order to put himself into a good position for Sunday’s main event, particularly when the title battle with Verstappen is extremely close with only nine races of the season remaining.
“We have to get off to a good start tomorrow and try and maximise the opportunities,” he said. “There has been many lost points this year so every point really counts and we need to try and capitalise during these sprint race weekends.
“The format is exciting and it’s amazing to see the Italian fans back. I hope we can give them a good show.”