‘There’s more to come’ says Bottas after Friday practice clean sweep at Sochi
Valtteri Bottas has looked like a man who has had the weight lifted off his shoulders, having signed a deal to race for Alfa Romeo from next season, and that is transferring into strong on-track performance as he excelled at the Sochi Autodrom in Friday practice. Impressive though he was, as he set the pace in both sessions, ominously for his rivals, he says “there is more to come”…
Bottas, who is something of a Sochi specialist as he comes alive when racing around the Russia Winter Olympic venue, beat seven-time world champion team mate Lewis Hamilton in FP1 and FP2, edging ahead by 0.044s in the latter, as he reported to be pleased with the baseline of the car from the off.
“It could always go better, but if you look at the lap times and based on the feelings, it was a good day,” he said. “From the first run I had good confidence with the car, the balance was actually very good, so all we had to do were minor adjustments during the day.
“I could really just focus on the driving and finding small gains here and there. But I’d say that both in the short and the long runs I was pretty comfortable.”
He added: “There is more to come, but I think tomorrow is going to be wet, so it’s going to be a completely different day.
“At least we had in FP1 some decent long runs, and the main thing is that the car feels good in the long runs, which is important for Sunday, when it could be dry. I think tomorrow is going to be a different kind of day.”
His team mate Hamilton was reasonably happy with his efforts, but admits the Silver Arrows have work to do to improve the pace on high fuel for the race.
“It seems like we started off on the right foot.,” he said. “As we’re always trying to progress, the first run in the first session was the best – and we’ve been migrating and adjusting since – and it’s not been as good as that one, as you’re starting to push more and more I guess.
“It was generally a good session pace wise, we’ve got some work to do probably on our long run and then tomorrow it’s going to be raining a lot we heard, so it’s going to be a big wet day tomorrow, so it will be interesting to see what we do in terms of set-up for that, knowing potentially Sunday is dry.
When asked what needs changing to improve the long run pace, Hamilton replied: “It’s just going to be set-up. Me and Valtteri are quite different on set-up, deliberately going in different ways to try and see what is best. So tonight, we will try and understand, study those and figure out how we come back to the right path.”
Hamilton’s title rival Max Verstappen, whom he trails by five points in the drivers’ championship, will start from the back of the grid after picking up a host of penalties for a full engine change, in addition to the three places he was already set to drop after his collision with Hamilton in Italy.
“It doesn’t change anything for us, we just have to do our thing and focus on moving forward,” said Hamilton of the penalty.
“It’s a tough year for everyone with reliability, so it’s definitely a shame for him, but we have to try and capitalise on that naturally and try to get maximum result. A one-two would be spectacular for us.”