‘We had a shot for pole’ – Bottas ‘gutted’ by Q3 red flag but proud of pace turnaround
Valtteri Bottas admitted to being frustrated that a chance to claim his first ever pole position at Monaco was taken away by Charles Leclerc’s sensational Q3 crash, which simultaneously handed the Monegasque pole at home. But considering how off the pace he and Mercedes had been in Thursday practice, Bottas conceded that he was at least proud of his turnaround in performance, as he secured P3 on the grid behind Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
While Leclerc had claimed P1 in Free Practice 2 on Thursday, Bottas’ best lap in FP2 had only been good enough for fourth, 0.423s off the pace. But with the Finn having looked easily the more comfortable of the two Mercedes drivers in qualifying – and even heading Q1 – Bottas was philosophical about ultimately missing out on pole, after Leclerc’s crash prevented him from a completing a potentially faster final lap.
“For me, it’s disappointing that I didn’t get my last run with the red flag, but that’s how it is sometimes,” said Bottas, who wound up 0.255s adrift of Leclerc, as team mate Lewis Hamilton took a lowly P7 on the grid. “I kind of left everything out there for the last run. Yes, the first run wasn’t really enough for pole but in the second run with the prep lap that we did actually I was feeling good. I was quite a bit [quicker than before], so I am gutted.
“I think I was in Turns 6 and 7 one and a half tenths up,” he added. “But if and if – that's what it is... Sometimes in this sport, things don't play into your hands. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes unlucky and that's what happens.”
While Hamilton ended up 0.749s off the pace in Q3 – the disgruntled seven-time champion telling the media darkly after qualifying that “there are things that should have been done which haven’t been done” at Mercedes – Bottas said he was “proud” of how he’d reversed his Thursday form, saying: “We have seen since the practice on Thursday and still this morning that our relative performance to Red Bull and Ferrari is not quite what it has been in the recent races.
“But what I’m proud of is the progress we’ve managed to make. By the time of qualifying the car was feeling a lot better than it did in practice. And even since this morning I was more comfortable with the car and actually I really felt that there was a shot for pole position, which was completely out of reach in practice. That's why it was disappointing at the end with the red flag because I felt there was a good lap on the way.”
Still, although pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most important of the F1 season in terms of giving a driver track position around the tight street circuit, there are worse places to start than P3 – while question marks remained over whether Leclerc’s crash might result in grid penalties for replacement parts.
But did Bottas believe that he still had the car to win on Sunday, with the Finn’s best result here to date being his third place in 2019?
“I think we have a good race car, I think so,” he replied. “Not that it helps here if there’s a train! So we’ll see.”