Valtteri Bottas believes his first lap in Q3 was the key to securing his first pole position of the season at the Austrian Grand Prix by just 0.019s.
While Lewis Hamilton topped both of Friday’s practice sessions, Ferrari had emerged as a threat in qualifying with Sebastian Vettel quickest in both FP3 and Q2. However, Hamilton and Vettel each made an error on their opening laps in the final part of qualifying, while Bottas pulled out a strong first attempt which left him half a second clear of the field at the time before pipping Hamilton on the final runs.
“The whole weekend we have been making good progress with the setup,” Bottas said. “We had the new bits this weekend for the car. There’s been some work to get the car well balanced with those and finally we did — the car felt so good. In the last run I knew that there was a tenth or so I could improve from the first run and I managed to find it. Apparently I needed it!
“For sure, here it’s a short circuit and that’s why we normally see quite small gaps. It’s actually not an easy circuit to get everything right, even though there’s only seven proper corners for us — it’s quite easy to make a mistake, so getting that first run, a nice lap on that one, it helps. I could kind of build on that for the second run and improve on it.”
Explaining where he found the extra time on his final attempt, Bottas says it was largely a case of trying to match his first effort and gain from the track being at its quickest at the end of qualifying.
“I think the first lap was really good but I think there was a tiny bit of track improvement for the second run. It’s always difficult to say how much but I think the second lap was very similar to the first one. I think I improved one tenth or so but yeah, I had some good laps in Qualifying 3 so really enjoyed it and the car really allowed me to push.”
Bottas won in Austria a year ago after making an extremely strong start that was on the limit of a jump start, and the Finn says he doesn’t need a repeat in order to hold onto the lead.
“I think it’s a relatively short run into Turn 1, so I think you need a normal start. Of course, you always try to get a good one but I think to actually lose a position here or to gain, there needs to be quite a big difference with the starts. So, I’m aiming for a good start.”