Lost practice time left Bottas 'playing catch-up'

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates his pole position in qualifying parc ferme with second placed team mate Valtteri Bottas
ยฉ XPB 

Valtteri Bottas came close to pipping his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the French Grand Prix on Saturday.

That's pretty good - especially considering how much practice time the Finn has lost at Circuit Paul Ricard this weekend.

After a solid start in Friday morning's session, Bottas had been sidelined after lunch when his car suffered a water leak midway through FP2. It meant he completed only seven laps in the afternoon, compared to Hamilton's 27.

His W09 was fully repaired and ready to roll on Saturday morning, and Bottas was one of the first drivers to head out on track in FP3.

But even as he completed his initial flying lap, rain started to fall and he was forced back to pit lane where he stayed for the rest of the hour.

"It felt like I was playing catch-up all day," Bottas commented after qualifying. "I missed a lot of track time in FP2, and track time in FP3 was limited for everyone.

"I was kind of catching up run by run," he added. "I was still finding gains in every run throughout qualifying.

"I myself got an okay lap, but did not yet get a perfect lap together," he continued. "It was not a bad lap, not the perfect either. I've been struggling to get perfect laps this week.

"It was enough to get us a front-row lockout," he acknowledged. "One-two for us is perfect.

"It seems like it might be difficult to overtake on this track, so it's very good to start from the front.

"We were strong today, the team did a really good job," he continued. "The team has done an amazing job upgrading the car.

"Every single upgrade, including the engine, helped to make the car better and the total package brought us the front row today."

Mercedes confirmed on Friday night that both Bottas and Hamilton - together with the drivers in the customer Williams and Force India teams - had finally received their second generation power units this weekend.

They had originally been planned for Canada but a quality issue forced Mercedes into a rethink. Bottas was pleased to have a bit more power at his disposal this weekend, having struggled with the ageing components in Montreal.

"It feels good, the engine. It feels very fresh and powerful. The team has done an amazing job on that. Hopefully tomorrow we can also prove that it's good.

"We will see different strategies tomorrow," he pointed out. "Ferrari will start on a softer tyre than and it will be interesting to see what effect that has.

"We have a good car and should have all the tools to fight for a one-two tomorrow," he added. "And I'll do my best to fight for the win."

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