Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s Valtteri Bottas says he is really enjoying the Imola circuit as the Finn took pole position for Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as Formula One makes their third trip to Italy this season. Bottas starts the race just ahead of his team mate Lewis Hamilton and speaking about his session, Bottas said:
It’s never easy to get pole position but I’m really enjoying this track. When you push flat out, it’s a beautiful feeling and I knew I had to dig deep on the final lap. For me, Turns 2 and 3 were something I really had to work on today, and I only got there right at the end; the same at the final corners, where I’d struggled with some instability but I knew I really had to push at the end, so I risked it and the car just turned in nicely. I was able to find the small gains I needed and it’s a great feeling when you manage that – I definitely had the shakes after that one! Tomorrow, it’s going to be a good fight: it’s one of the longest runs of the calendar into Turn 1, so no doubt Lewis and Max will be chasing me. But it’s a good place to start and hopefully the pace is good. Game on!
Lewis Hamilton goes into the race on Sunday looking to extend his championship lead further having broken Michael Schumacher’s win record last time out in Portugal and speaking about the race on Sunday he said:
Valtteri did a great job this afternoon and it was a pretty poor final lap from me, but these things happen and you can’t always get it perfect. This circuit is unbelievable, it’s a classic with amazing history, and the speeds that we are going round it are pretty mind blowing; I’m so grateful to be here and to have the performance that we have, which is really remarkable. The tyres are working better here than they did in Portugal last weekend but it was still a real challenge out there today. For tomorrow, I’m pretty certain we will see quite a boring race, because the track is quite narrow and there’s nowhere you can really pass after the first chicane. So, it’s going to be a tough challenge when following, but hopefully the DRS will give us opportunities into the first braking zone. We saw Max was very strong on his race runs this morning, so he will be a threat, and I’m just going to give it everything I’ve got tomorrow and see where we get to.
Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team Principal and CEO Toto Wolff commented saying:
That was a great qualifying session, once again coming down to the final lap of the final run. Last weekend in Portugal, Valtteri looked to have the upper hand through qualifying, then Lewis took the pole right at the end by a tenth; this time, Valtteri turned the tables and was able to claim pole. We’ve seen them both very close in qualifying at the last races, with the advantage swinging back and forth, and that’s exactly how it should be. For tomorrow, we decided to start on the Medium compound because the Soft didn’t look great on the long runs in practice. The only thing we’ll be telling the drivers is to go flat out and race each other hard – everything else they know and we’re looking forward to see how it plays out.
Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team chief engineer Andrew Shovlin commented saying:
It’s great to be starting tomorrow with both cars on the front row and well done to Valtteri for a fine lap at the very end to put him on pole. We’ve enjoyed the two-day format so far. It’s simply not possible to do all the normal homework in the space of one and a half hours, so the session ends up a bit of a compromise of both low and high fuel work. A bit of a surprise for us in the morning session was just how poor the soft tyre was. If we’d known that we’d have done the same FP1 programme as Red Bull and Ferrari, and saved a set for qualifying. It took Valtteri a bit of time to get going in the morning, he damaged his first set of hard tyres with a flatspot which meant he was having to do the low fuel work on medium and soft tyres without many laps under his belt. Lewis had a tidier session, getting to grips with the track on the first run and by the time he was on low fuel he was putting in times that were faster than anyone. With such little running in practice, qualifying is always going to be a bit of a learning curve but our cars looked like we had a bit of margin to Red Bull throughout although it was nip and tuck between our two drivers with Valtteri just nudging it in front in the final moments. We’re not sure where we sit to Red Bull on pace for tomorrow, they looked about the same as us in the long runs this morning, but we’ll find out in the first stint when we see if we can build a gap.