Williams Martini Racing Team’s Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas had a strong opening qualifying session for 2016 and will start Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix from sixth and eleventh on the grid.

Felipe Massa set a fastest time of 1m 25.458s and will start the race alongside Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen. Speaking following the session, Massa commented by saying:

It was a good qualifying. I managed to qualify the best I could, but unfortunately lost out on fifth place by a very small gap. That is the only negative point. I did some good laps and the car behaves well, so I am happy. It is tricky, and not easy, going through the session knowing the countdown is on every few minutes. Fortunately, I didn’t have any problems on my laps, but if you go out in traffic and you have any problems, it could be a lot closer that it was today.

Although Valtteri Bottas was struggling with grip and disappointed with his session as he just missed out on a place in the top ten starting the race from eleventh, the Finn will certainly be one to watch at the start as he has a choice as to what tyres he starts the race on.

Speaking about his session, Bottas commented by saying:

It was a disappointing session. I was struggling with grip today, so we need to have a look to see if we got everything out of the tyres, the pressure and temperatures. I was hoping to get to Q3, but tomorrow is a new day and from 11th it is still possible to have a good race.

Williams Martini Racing’s Head of Performance Engineering Rob Smedley commented by saying:

We planned this qualifying much more extensively than we would have done with the old regulations. One of the messages we kept giving to the drivers, was there are a few simple rules of this qualifying that we need to get our head around and we managed to do that quite well. We made sensible choices throughout and ended up in a reasonable position. It is certainly much more complicated than the previous qualifying system, and needs a lot more thinking. But as long as you get those few golden rules right, then you’re alright. As for the performance of the car, it was a little bit unfortunate that Valtteri was unable to get through to Q3, but overall the drivers have done a good job. The car is a great baseline. We thought we’d be in that third position in winter testing, and that has more or less proved to be the case. It is very tight between us, Red Bull and Toro Rosso. Now, we need to get our head down and get a little more development, and that is all happening to get ourselves into a more solid third position. We can definitely race from here tomorrow. Valtteri is actually in a good position in P11, because he has a free choice of tyres, so that strategy is wide open for him. Felipe is further up the grid, but having to start on his Q2 supersoft tyres. We did a bit of homework on the race strategy and ticked off a few boxes we needed to understand during FP3, so we are in a reasonably good shape going into the race and hopefully we can come out with some good points.

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