Bottas expects to have the upper hand on Sunday
Valtteri Bottas may have missed out on clinching pole position for the 2020 Russian Grand Prix, but he still believes that he has a strong chance of taking control of the race on Sunday.
Bottas had been fastest of anyone throughout Friday’s practice sessions, only to lose the advantage to his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton in final practice on Saturday morning.
Bottas was back on top at the start of qualifying, when two deleted lap times for Hamilton resulted in Bottas commanding Q1 by three tenths of a second.
- Real also: Hamilton survives to snatch Sochi pole from Verstappen
And in Q2, another deleted lap time for Hamilton left the championship leader at extreme risk of missing the cut and starting the race from 15th place on the grid, while Bottas was already safely through.
But having dodged a bullet in the second round, Hamilton then moved up a gear and dominated the final top ten pole shoot-out while Bottas seemed to struggle to find his former pace.
In the end, his time of 1:31.956s was not only six and a half tenths slower than his team mate, it wasn’t even good enough to hold on to a front row spot after he was seen off by a final flier from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
“It has been looking pretty good all weekend,” Bottas told the media in parc ferme after the end of qualifying. “I felt the pace has been really good.
“In Q1 and Q2 it was all nice and smooth, but in Q3 to be honest I don’t know,” he added. “I found some gains but, obviously, the others found more.
“I don’t really get it why I couldn’t match Lewis’ times in Q3. It just didn’t feel like I was gaining much grip from the previous sessions.
“Even in Q2 it felt better, so a few question marks for me about what really happened.
“The first run in Q3 my tyres were too cold,” he suggested. “In the second run, I don’t know – I just couldn’t go any quicker.”
Even so, starting from the odd-numbered side of the grid right behind Hamilton may actually prove to be the better outcome for the Finn.
“Actually third is a pretty good place to start from, and I think I’m on the right tyre, as well.
“I remember I started once in third here and I know what happened then so, for sure, I’ll try to do the same,” he said, recalling the 2017 race when he took the lead on the opening lap – and went on to secure his maiden F1 victory.
This time around, Bottas also has an additional advantage when it comes to tyre selection as he will be starting the race on the medium compound, which is Mercedes’ preferred tyre strategy.
However the dramatic events of Q2 forced Hamilton to switch to the soft compound for tomorrow’s start in order to be sure of making the cut.
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“I think here it’s pretty sensitive with the tyres, getting it right,” Bottas insisted.
“I really think I have the advantage in the first stint with the medium so there’s still all to play for.”
Bottas has started from pole on two occasions in 2020 and won the opening round in Austria. He’s currently in second place in the drivers standings ahead of Max Verstappen.
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