Valtteri Bottas recovered from missing final practice on Saturday morning to score two valuable points for the Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN in the Sprint race at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari.
The Finn sat out the practice session as the team continued to fix the car following his stoppage late in Qualifying on Friday, and his first meaningful running in the dry came at the beginning of the Sprint race.
Bottas recovered from a poor start to gain places and finish inside the points, with a late race pass on Haas F1 Team’s Kevin Magnussen giving him seventh place on the grid for Sunday’s Feature race at Imola.
“First of all, I want to thank the team who did a great job putting the car back together: there were so many things they had to change but they were brilliant and thankfully everything worked perfectly,” said Bottas.
“I always trust the crew to get the car right, but they had a big task ahead of them and they delivered. Once we got racing, it was a fun afternoon with a lot of battling and some nice overtaking.
“I had a good, close fight with Fernando [Alonso] which was enjoyable, but overall it was an exciting Sprint for me. I had a bit of wheelspin at the start and I lost a few places, but after that my performance was strong.
“The car felt really good in terms of balance and we had good pace, so we should be in a strong position for tomorrow as well.”
“It’s obviously disappointing to end a race like this” – Zhou Guanyu
Unfortunately for team-mate Zhou Guanyu, the Chinese driver’s Sprint race was over before it really began, after contact with Scuderia AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly left him down in the wall with heavy damage.
The incident with the Frenchman was deemed a racing incident by the stewards, but the crash resigns him to a back row start for Sunday’s main race of the weekend.
“It’s obviously disappointing to end a race like this, especially because we have a good car that allows us to be competitive,” said Zhou. “I was in a hard but fair fight with Pierre [Gasly] and Lewis [Hamilton] throughout the whole of sector one and the beginning of sector two, I made a move on Pierre in turn nine and I was ahead going into the braking zone.
“I got a big hit on the exit, and that spun me into the wall: it was a big surprise but that was the end of it. It’s a shame as we had a good opportunity to gain some places, the car has quite a bit of damage and it’s going to be a lot of work for the mechanics, unfortunately.”
Zhou says there will be opportunities to move forward on Sunday afternoon, and after seeing what was possible with the other car when it came to overtaking, he is optimistic he can move up the order and possibly fight for points.
“Now we need to focus on making a comeback tomorrow: we still have a good car and you never know what can happen,” Zhou added. “The team is working in the right way, our upgrades work and we saw today that overtaking is possible.
“We will do our best – we made it into the points from last at turn one in Melbourne and we’ll try to do it again this time.”