Valtteri Bottas is confident in his chances at the Russian Grand Prix despite qualifying third, due to Lewis Hamilton’s tire situation.
Hamilton was caught out by having a lap time deleted in Q2 for exceeding track limits and then seeing the session red flagged due to Sebastian Vettel’s crash, leaving him without a time with two minutes remaining. To ensure he got through, Hamilton had to use soft tires for his final lap rather than the mediums that Bottas qualified on, giving the Finn a likely advantage in terms of Sunday’s strategy.
“It has been looking pretty good all weekend,” Bottas said. “Also, in Q1 and Q2 was all nice and smooth but, in Q3, to be honest, I don’t know. I found some gains but, obviously, the others found more.
“I think here it’s pretty sensitive with the tires, getting it right. In the first run in Q3 my tires were too cold; in the second run I don’t know, I just couldn’t go any quicker, so there are some question marks there but, actually third is a pretty good place to start from. And I think I’m on the right tire, as well.”
Bottas ended up over 0.6s off Hamilton in Q3 and was bested for second place by Max Verstappen, and he admits he thought he’d be closer to his teammate.
“Q3 was a tricky one. In the first run I didn’t feel my tires were ready — at the end of the out-lap I had a big snap, so I lost already a couple of tenths on the run down into Turn 2 and when I got there I had a massive snap oversteer, so the tires only came in, really, towards the end of the lap.
“I was just waiting for the second run and then there were no mistakes as such, in Turn 2 I had a tiny lock-up and went a bit wide. But, to be honest, I don’t really get it why I couldn’t match Lewis’ times in Q3. It just didn’t feel I wasn’t gaining much grip from the previous sessions. I think even in Q2 it felt better.
“So a few question marks for me about what really happened. Or maybe I was just playing games and wanted to start third…”