Bottas: Mercedes ‘can challenge for Spa win’ despite Ferrari speed
No driver has ever won the Belgian Grand Prix from fourth on the grid. But that didn’t stop a resolute Valtteri Bottas from predicting that he had a good chance of doing exactly that in Sunday’s race, despite having qualified nearly nine-tenths off Charles Leclerc’s pole time at Spa.
Bottas’s team mate Lewis Hamilton was the nearest challenger to the two Ferraris in qualifying, but even the three-time Spa pole-winner here failed to get within three-quarters of a second of Charles Leclerc’s pole time, ending up 0.763s back, as Bottas found himself 0.896s adrift.
But with analysis of Friday’s long run data showing Mercedes with a 0.5s/lap advantage over Ferrari, plus a good chance for the two Silver Arrows to slipstream the Ferraris on the long run to Les Combes on Lap 1, Bottas believed that there was still all to play for in Sunday’s race.
“Honestly, I'm optimistic for tomorrow,” he said. “The long runs looked good yesterday. We can definitely fight for the win from P3 and P4.”
Ferrari’s straight-line speed is usually not there so much in the race, so hopefully we’ll be there or thereabouts with them
The two Mercedes narrowly avoided an embarrassing incident at the start of Q3 when Hamilton came close to sliding into the back of Bottas as they jostled for track position. But having overcome that near-miss, as well as a bizarre FP3 crash, to secure third on the grid for the second race in a row, Hamilton echoed his team mate’s upbeat prediction for Sunday.
“I think in the long run, I’m hoping that we can at least give [Ferrari] a bit of a challenge tomorrow,” he said in the post-qualifying press conference. “I think a bit of their straight [line] speed, which is where generally all the speed is, it’s usually not there so much in the race, so hopefully we’ll be there or thereabouts with them tomorrow and can put in, maybe, some interesting strategies. We’ll see.”
Heading into the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Mercedes head Ferrari by a whopping 150 points in the constructors’ standings, having won 10 out of 12 races so far this season, while the Scuderia have failed to convert the three pole positions they’d scored this year prior to Belgium into a win.
The constructors's standings ahead of Belgium
|3 Red Bull Racing||244|
|5 Toro Rosso||43|
|7 Alfa Romeo Racing||32|
|8 Racing Point||31|
|9 Haas F1 Team||26|