Bottas delighted to 'unlock potential' and claim pole

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates his pole position in qualifying parc ferme.
© XPB 

Valtteri Bottas was jubilant after beating Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Bottas was a slender 0.012s faster than his Mercedes team mate at the end of qualifying, despite going off the track and through the gravel on his final push lap.

“I finally managed to unlock some performance from myself and from the car for the qualifying," he said after the end of the session.

“There were certain corners that I sometimes got right, but mostly I was just a bit off," he explained.

"Through the qualifying, I managed to build the confidence and found areas that I was missing and managed to get some good laps and put the pieces together," he said. “I think there was a bit more time on the table

“I think I was slightly up on my second lap until I ran a bit wide in Turn 4 on the gravel and went off the track, so that was my mistake.

"It wasn't quite perfect but obviously, it was super close with Lewis… I’m just surprised with the gap to the other teams. It just shows the amazing strength of this team, and it's really impressive.

"It feels so good. I can't say more than that. And our team - oh, amazing job. We seem to be in our own league.

"I just really enjoyed it," he added, happy to be back racing at last. "I've been preparing for this for a long time and it feels so good.

"I've missed these feelings - the qualifying shakes. It's something special when you push the car to the limit.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 with his team mate Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 in qualifying parc ferme.

Hamilton was philosophical about missing out on the first pole of the 2020 season that's been delayed by four months due to the global outbreak of coronavirus.

"Valtteri did a fantastic job today with his lap and it’s amazing," he said. "Ultimately Valtteri just did a better job today

"The car was great, [I] just didn’t manage to put the greatest laps together. So, work for myself to do.

And he was certainly happy that both Mercedes cars were half a second up on their nearest rival, Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

"We did not expect to have that sort of gap. We thought they were definitely quick enough to be fighting for pole," Hamilton said.

“We definitely didn’t expect to have that gap but it’s just a true showing of the great work everyone back at the factory continues to do.

"That was the true showing of our car, and we plan to try and improve on that!"

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 W11.

Team principal Toto Wolff was also ecstatic with how the team had performed on Saturday, especially as it wasn't historically a strong circuit for the squad.

"Last year we were heavily compromised by cooling which didn't help power and performance," he pointed out. "Our engineers have worked together and a track that doesn't suit us, to have such a performance, is a good indication for the season - but only a tiny one.

"We knew that we had a strong car, but we are so sceptical always that there is some surprise coming from Red Bull - because they are always good for a surprise.

"I think that what they did in terms of the offset strategy with the medium [tyre] knowing that raw pace wouldn't be enough for pole is clever," he said. "With the increasing temperatures tomorrow, they can have a real go."

But most of all, he explained that everyone at Mercedes was just delighted to be back racing after several months of lockdown due to coronavirus.

"It's so good to come back. I had a chat with some of the engineers who said, this is just the icing on the cake - coming back was already great!"

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