Valtteri Bottas admits he would never expect to have such a big margin over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton after taking pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix by more than half a second.
Hamilton had been quickest in final practice at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with Bottas spinning into the gravel early in the session to bring out the red flags. That incident cost the Finn track time as he was half a second off his teammate in FP3, but he hit back with an impressive qualifying performance, culminating in a stunning pole lap that left him over 0.6s clear of the field.
“It was really enjoyable and to get a nice lap like that is a nice feeling and a nice adrenaline rush,” Bottas said. “What makes it enjoyable is when the car is behaving, when the car is doing what you want it to do and what you ask it to do.
“I think as a team we have done an incredible job with the upgrades we brought here and with the setup direction we’ve taken. But I was really building up to the qualifying after a difficult Practice 3 with the spin and each run I always knew, ‘OK, here I can improve,’ and so on, and I managed to put it together for Q3.
“For sure the gap is big. I never would expect that — I don’t know how Lewis’ lap was but this time I got everything pretty well right in the lap.”
The result is Bottas’ third consecutive pole position after also beating Hamilton in China and Azerbaijan, but after failing to convert that into victory on the first occasion, Bottas admits his focus now is on trying to retain the lead at the start.
“In terms of qualifying performance, it has been so far my best start of the year in Formula 1 — but it’s not only about Saturdays. For sure, it’s super-important and, depending on the track, but also the race performance, start performance. I think it’s going to be key — one of the key things for sure.
“For sure it’s going to be important. It’s one of the longer runs into Turn 1 from the start so definitely the start performance is important and there’s also a bit of a tow effect for the cars behind. It’s difficult to overtake, so for sure the start is going to be important and Turn 1, but it’s pretty normal and (I shall) look forward to the fight.”