Valtteri Bottas feels he stepped up when Mercedes needed him to after securing pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
The Finn has not been on pole since the Austrian Grand Prix and suffered a dip in form after the summer break, but took the third pole of his career on Saturday at Interlagos. Having been the sole Mercedes in the session after Lewis Hamilton crashed out in Q1, Bottas – who pipped Sebastian Vettel by just 0.036s – says it was important he delivered for the team.
“I feel good,” Bottas said. “Still a bit shaky, it’s a good feeling. It was very exciting, so close between Sebastian and me, and also Kimi [Raikkonen] sometimes, in the qualifying, so I got a good lap in the end. It was a shame Lewis was out from the start but I’m happy I could step up for the team.
“I’m very happy with the qualifying, from my side and also from the team’s side, except the unfortunate off Lewis had in the beginning. In the end it was all on me and I’m happy I delivered and I could put it on pole. The laps were getting better and better, but it was all the time very close, so I’m pleased that in the end I could get it all together in Q3, get a good lap and put it on pole.”
With the two Mercedes drivers topping all three practice sessions this weekend, Bottas – who was fastest in FP3 – admits he would have liked to have fought Hamilton for pole given his performance so far.
“For sure it has been more difficult [recently], sometimes better but that’s how it goes in racing. I think the performance line, for me, in the last few races has been all the way going up; I’m just feeling better and better with the car, we’ve just been working hard on the issues we’ve been having.
“We’ve been learning a lot, getting better, learning from the mistakes and the three tricky sessions. The last few weekends have been a lot better, like in the last one, in qualifying, there were just a couple of hundreds of a second between Lewis and me. It’s also been the case all weekend here, so it was a shame he wasn’t in Q3, but I’m still very pleased with my performance.”
And Bottas believes the result has added importance to Mercedes coming a day after some members of the team were robbed at gunpoint in Sao Paulo.
“I spoke with them this morning and I said we were going to put it on pole position and cheer everyone up, so I’m glad we did that. First of all I’m happy everyone is in one piece and nothing physical happened to anyone but it was a pretty bad situation to be in, and I’m happy everybody is still here.”