Bottas feeling ‘very confident’ after heading Hamilton in both Friday practice sessions
Can Valtteri Bottas repeat his defeat of Lewis Hamilton from last week’s Austrian Grand Prix at the upcoming Styrian Grand Prix this weekend? The early signs were good, as the “very confident” Finn outpaced his illustrious team mate across both of Friday’s sessions at the Red Bull Ring.
Last week’s race winner Bottas narrowly pipped Hamilton to third spot in Free Practice 1 on Friday morning – the two Mercedes behind the impressive Sergio Perez in the Racing Point and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen – before Verstappen beat Bottas to the top spot in FP2 by just 0.043s, as Hamilton could only manage P6, a full 0.645s off Bottas’ time after the qualifying simulations.
It was therefore an understandably chipper Bottas who faced the media on Friday evening, despite neither Mercedes having topped a session all day.
“From the very get-go of the first lap I felt very confident,” said Bottas. “For sure from starting the day today, it felt different to last week. You’ve had one race weekend under your belt and obviously at the same track.
“I still feel really good in the car, which is good news. But in the end, as always, it’s the next two days that will count.”
Last week’s Austrian Grand Prix witnessed both Mercedes drivers being ordered to stay off the kerbs in order to not exacerbate an ‘electrical noise’ issue on the pair’s W11 carss – with Bottas confirming that the team had made progress in finding a solution for the problem on Friday.
“FP1 was mainly trying to see if we have been able to fix the reliability concerns we had in the race last Sunday,” said Bottas. “I think the team is still looking into that but I think we’ve made progress on that, so that’s good news.
“Then [we did] some good set-up tweaks, tried different things, and from my side, tried to use the learnings from the first weekend in terms of one-lap pace and also the driving style in the race distance, so trying different things and trying to be better basically.”
Hamilton, meanwhile, was at a loss to explain where he’d been lacking compared to his team mate on Friday.
“That I don’t know, I can’t really say,” he said. “It felt relatively normal but quite far off so there’s a bit of work that needs to go on in the background to try and figure out why.
“I was feeling good in Practice 1, and at the start of P2 felt pretty good, but then it just started to drop off. Others out there are obviously quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace so hopefully tomorrow we’ll be in a better position.”
Whether the teams will run tomorrow is another matter, with storms threatening to interrupt Saturday’s sessions – although Hamilton was hoping for a chance to drive in the wet at some point during the weekend. “I’ll try to do the dry dance, if there’s a dry dance, to make sure there’s no fricking rain for Sunday,” said Hamilton. “[But if] it’s raining, it’s fun out there, so I’m hoping we can still drive in the rain tomorrow.”