Valtteri Bottas admits he is wary of the title picture involving teammate Lewis Hamilton but is aiming for victory having secured pole position in the Russian Grand Prix.
Hamilton was fastest in FP2 and FP3 ahead of Bottas, and then topped the first two parts of qualifying before the Finn took pole position after the championship leader aborted his final lap. The result is just the second pole that Bottas has taken this season, but with Hamilton 40 points ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ championship and starting one place ahead of the Ferrari, Bottas is aware team orders might come into play.
“My approach to the race tomorrow is definitively to try and win the race — you cannot have any other goal starting from pole,” Bottas said. “It’s just going to be the aim. But as a team, we’re fighting for both championships, Lewis is leading the championship by quite a gap to Sebastian and a very big gap from me, so we have to keep those things in mind.
“My approach, starting the race, is trying to win, but we’ll see how it goes.”
Bottas said after the Singapore Grand Prix that he needs some good results to improve his confidence having not won a race this season so far, and he admits the performance in Russia is the perfect boost.
“It feels good. I’ve only been once on pole this year, in Austria, so it has been a bit long since the last time. It’s a good feeling, coming into this weekend I knew this track had been pretty good for me in the past.
“I managed to get some good laps in. In qualifying, the car just felt really, really strong, as the lap times show and I think the team has done an exceptional job again, bringing new bits for this race. We’re just step by step improving the car, which is going to be really important for the rest of the year, for the championship.”
However, Bottas is wary of the distance to the first braking zone at the start of the race, having slipstreamed into the lead himself from third on the grid last year.
“Maybe I don’t look like it but I’m pretty happy, but it’s only the first step in this weekend. It’s a massive long run from the start line into Turn 1, so it’s going to be important to try and keep the position.”