'I finally unlocked the performance in myself' says Bottas after Austria pole
Having trailed Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton by a few tenths in every session heading into qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas put it all together to claim the first pole position of the 2020 season, as he edged his team mate by just 0.012s.
Q2 saw Bottas top the timesheets for the first time during a weekend dominated so far by Mercedes, while he followed it up with a provisional pole position time early in Q3.
But despite slewing into the gravel on his second run before enjoying a bit of grasstrack action as he tried to re-join the track, Bottas had done enough to claim pole – with Hamilton later confirming that Bottas’ off hadn’t affected his own second lap, as the Mercedes pair finished over half a second clear of third-placed Max Verstappen for Red Bull.
“I've definitely missed the adrenaline rush and the feeling you get from pushing these machines to the limit,” said Bottas after the session. “I finally managed to unlock some performance from myself and from the car for the qualifying.
“There were certain corners that I sometimes got right, but mostly I was just a bit off, so just 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.
“I think there was a bit more time on the table,” Bottas added. “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.”
Our data from qualifying showed that Bottas’ advantage over Hamilton had come going through the Turn 7-8 chicane, with the Finn managing to carry just a touch more speed through the complex.
Despite having his 12th pole position in his pocket, however – at the track where he took his first back in 2017 – Bottas confessed to still being wary of a threat from Mercedes’ rivals, with two-time Austria winner Verstappen lurking in P3.
“For sure, race and long runs, it's always a different story and we've seen many times that Red Bull have had a good race car and the race depends on so many different things,” said Bottas.
“We don't take anything with the mentality that it's going to be easy for us. We are prepared for a threat from other teams, not just the two of us [racing together]. And we do expect it.”