Valtteri Bottas says he only found confidence in his car during qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix and was “really surprised” by the advantage Mercedes had over the field.
The Finn bested teammate Lewis Hamilton to pole by just 0.012s despite going off on his final attempt, with Hamilton unable to improve enough and facing the stewards for allegedly failing to slow for yellow flags. Bottas admits he was struggling with his confidence during the early part of the first race of the season but found his rhythm just in time and was not expecting to be nearly half a second clear of Max Verstappen.
“The first thing is that I definitely missed this kind of adrenaline rush you get from pushing these machines to the limit, trying to be at your personal peak and concentration, performance — it’s so much fun,” Bottas said. “I obviously enjoyed the qualifying session and, for me, it was in qualifying I finally managed to unlock some of the performance from myself and from the car for the one lap run.
“There were certain corners I sometimes was getting right but, most of the time, I was just a bit off. It was just throughout the qualifying I managed to build some confidence, find the areas where I was missing and managed to get some good laps, managed to put some pieces together.
“I really, really enjoyed it and I’m really surprised with the gap to the other teams. It just shows the amazing strength of this team and what they’ve managed is so impressive.”
While his mistake preventing him from completing his second run, Bottas believes he would have found more time as he had more in hand before going off.
“I think there was more to come, as I was slightly up on my previous time on my second lap, until I ran a bit wide on Turn 4, went on the gravel and went off the track. That was my mistake, so it wasn’t quite perfect, but it was super close with Lewis, so I’m glad it was good enough.”