Valtteri Bottas says making the fewest mistakes on his first lap in Q3 was the key to getting pole position at the British Grand Prix.
Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull were closely matched at Silverstone, where cool and windy conditions made for a challenging track throughout qualifying. Bottas beat Hamilton by just 0.006s as his first attempt proved enough to secure pole, and he says a new track surface appears to make hooking up a clean lap even tougher.
“It was a good lap, obviously good enough for pole,” Bottas said. “There was not much between me and Lewis in the end, but going into the second run it was clear there were some places where I had a margin to improve, so I wouldn’t say it was a perfect lap.
“I doubt anyone could do a perfect lap today — it was not easy out there, the track is super sensitive to tiny mistakes here and there with this new tarmac. It was enough for pole and that’s definitely a good thing.”
Silverstone is the fourth time Bottas has qualified on pole position so far this season — more than any other driver — but he says his biggest focus needs to be on his conversion rate after failing to win from pole in China or Barcelona.
“It’s not something I’ve been specifically working on. We always try to improve our performance for high or low fuel loads, short and long runs. I think the biggest thing for me is working on my race pace in different kind of conditions. I mean, year by year you always learn, and you get quicker with the things you learn. The main thing is to turn that work into pole and wins.
“We’ve definitely been working a lot on the starts this year and some have been good but others weren’t ideal. I’ve been working a lot and I’m a lot more comfortable but every start is always going to be different — there are always different circumstances, tires, temperatures — but I’m more confident and the aim is to have a good start tomorrow. I’m in a good position and want to keep it.”
Currently sitting 31 points behind Hamilton in the drivers’ championship — a gap he reduced by five points in Austria — Bottas says he needs to ensure he continues reducing the deficit in the coming rounds.
“For sure the championship fight is still on. I’m the one chasing, I’m behind, but it’s going to be up to me, to my performance, so I need to get every opportunity there is. Otherwise Lewis is going to be far away and I won’t be able to reach him anymore.
“Tomorrow is going to be important, but so is the race after and the race after that. I just need to use these opportunities and make sure I do everything I can to cut the margin.”