Sport Bottas: ‘Surprise’ Mercedes pace gives hope for Saudi
F1 Brazilian GP: Hamilton fastest from Verstappen by 0.3s in FP1
Lewis Hamilton led Max Verstappen in FP1 for Formula 1’s 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix, where Mercedes and Red Bull diverged on pre-qualifying run plans ahead of the Interlagos sprint race.As the only chance for the teams to make car set-up decisions before they are locked in from the start of Friday qualifying, there was plenty of action at the start of the one-hour session.
While not expecting Mercedes to have the pace they did in Qatar, Valtteri Bottas hopes it can be carried into Saudi Arabia.
The first ever Qatar Grand Prix at Losail International Circuit took the teams into the unknown at a track characterised by long, sweeping corners taken at a high average speed.
But with only one traditional straight at that venue Mercedes tackled it without their “spicy equipment”, that beingintroduced in Brazil.
It was all about the corners then, but as it turned out that is whereexcelled as Hamilton continued his dominant form in Brazil to take pole position and Qatar GP victory.
Bottas pictured ‘Toto banging table’ after ‘nightmare’ first lap
A 'nightmare' first lap hampered Valtteri Bottas' afternoon at Interlagos, and he said he could imagine Toto Wolff's reaction at that point.Bottas started on pole but was passed by Max Verstappen at Turn 1 after both drivers ran deep into the corner. This lack of momentum then offered the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez the opportunity to close up behind the Mercedes, and pass him into Turn 4.
Bottas too had some performance under him in the W12, recovering from a grid penalty and poor start in which he dropped to P11 to become a strong podium contender, although sadly a puncture spelt the end of his race.
However, Bottas now moves on to the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, another new venue for Formula 1, with confidence that this pace can remain.
“It was a bit surprising, actually, how good it was,” said Bottas on Mercedes’ pace in Qatar, quoted by GPFans.
“It seems like tracks with high-speed content are pretty good for us.
“It gives us hope for Saudi. We are on a good run at the moment, good form with good performance. Hopefully we can keep up the good momentum and good work.”
Mercedes had doubts over Bottas’ strategy claims
While Valtteri Bottas thought he could have executed a one-stop strategy in Brazil, Mercedes decided to err on the side of caution.Bottas was called in to pit a lap after Max Verstappen took his second stop in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, which the Mercedes driver did not want to do – wondering on team radio if the team had “thrown away an easy 1-2” by not allowing him to stay out to try and make it to the end of the race.
Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Street Circuit is expected to be the fastest venue of its type on the Formula 1 calendar, and Bottas can confirm from simulator sessions that like Losail, the Jeddah track is indeed attacked at pace.
So that should in theory work in Mercedes’ favour.
“It’s quite high speed, Qatar worked for us and hopefully that will as well,” said the Finn.
“It’s quite similar in terms of overtaking, so it will be difficult. We’ll see.”
Of course, for Mercedes it was interesting that straight-line speed was not their greatest weapon in Qatar. Instead, they beat Red Bull in the long, flowing corners, a characteristic that had been expected to suit Red Bull.
But Bottas explained Mercedes have now found a better set-up for the W12 which allows for such an improvement in cornering performance.
Asked if Mercedes have now closed up on Red Bull in high-speed sections, Bottas replied: “I think so. We’ve learned a lot with the set-up. We are setting up the car a bit different nowadays than the beginning of the year.”
Mercedes and Red Bull head to Saudi Arabia with both title battles very finely poised.
In the Constructors’, Mercedes lead the way by five points but in the, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has an eight-point lead over Hamilton.
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