What a cracker! Bottas hits the big time

 

Valtteri Bottas took his maiden Formula One victory today after jumping the two Ferraris off the start, then edging out Sebastian Vettel in a nailbiting, race-long battle.

Today’s result marks the 400th podium finish for Mercedes-Benz Power in Formula One. Some achievement.

Kimi Raikkonen finished third (on the podium for the first time this season) in a Russian Grand Prix that was settled in two moments: the start and the final lap. Vettel extends his lead in the Drivers’ classification over Lewis Hamilton (who finished fourth) to 13 points. Hamilton struggled with overheating throughout the race.

Valtteri Bottas: “It’s going to take a while to sink in. Normally I’m not that emotional but hearing the Finnish national anthem was very special for me. It’s all a bit surreal, the first win and hopefully the first of many. It was definitely one of my best races ever.

“The pressure from Sebastian wasn’t too bad. The main issue was with the lapped cars, trying to get past those. It was tricky to pass them without losing time. I also had a lockup with about 15 laps to go that hurt the pace, but it was manageable. I asked for a bit of radio silence just to get on it and focus.

“I’m sure this victory will give me lots of confidence going forward. I knew I could do these results, I always trusted my ability, but this result confirms it.”

Good man. It’s no secret that Finns enjoy a good drink from time to time. Now, is one of those occasions. Many congratulations Mr Bottas, you jolly well deserve it!

 

 

Ferrari nails it

Valtteri looks a bit cheesed off.

 

Sebastian Vettel produced a gutsy drive this evening to win the Bahrain Grand Prix, having started from third on the grid. His victory was also down to the strategic calls from the Scuderia Ferrari pit wall. Lewis Hamilton took the 107th top three finish of his Formula One career in P2, and Valtteri Bottas, having started on pole, sealed a double podium for Mercedes in P3.

Sebastian Vettel: “At the start, it was important for me to get second place. Also, we got everything right with the strategy. We decided to pit early and this tactic proved to be working. Towards the end, I tried to manage the gap I had over Lewis. I expected him to charge through. Of course I was concerned with all the traffic ahead of me. But in the end it was all OK.

“The car was like a dream to drive. I felt right from the beginning that we had the speed to win. I had a good feeling yesterday. The lap back to pits was so sweet, with all the fireworks around, and I really savoured it. Tonight we enjoy the moment, but tomorrow we’ll be back at work. I haven’t changed my mind – to become world champion, you must first beat the Mercedes. We’ll take it race by race.”

Lewis Hamilton: “It’s been a challenging weekend. The start of the race was OK but Sebastian was in my blind spot so I didn’t know where he was and I lost a position there. It was really hard to follow but we generally had similar pace. Under the Safety Car, I just misjudged it myself the situation; that was my fault, so my apologies to the team.

“I had good pace in the second and final stints and we honestly thought we could catch Sebastian. But the five second penalty made that twice as hard. I believe it was the right choice to go with the Soft in the final stint. I think that was the best call as I still had a long way to go. Our guys have been making good calls all year so far. I tried my best to recover from the mistake but it wasn’t quite enough. We still come away with good points.”

Valtteri Bottas: “Not a good day. We had an issue with the tyre pressures at the start. I don’t know what it was but I could really feel it in the first stint and was sliding around as early as Lap 2. The pace wasn’t good and Sebastian put us under real pressure. I tried to extend the first stint but I couldn’t keep up with the pace.

“The second stint was better but I was still struggling with oversteer and then I couldn’t get the rear-end to work in the last stint. Under the Safety Car at the first stop there was a problem and we lost some time in the stop; maybe otherwise I would have just been in front but I know that the team will investigate the issue.

“I had some good racing with Sebastian after the restart but unfortunately it was just for a short moment. I’ve not had the race results that I’d been hoping for so far, but will be targeting a strong weekend in Sochi.”

 

“Sorry you were asked to let me past….. err, twice”

And a few words from Mr Bottas

 

“I’m really happy with my first Formula One pole. It’s my fifth season in the sport now, so it took a few races. But we got it and hopefully it is the first of many. It feels good.

“I didn’t realise it’d been nearly 10 years since a Finn was last on pole. I’m very proud as always to drive for Finland and represent my country.

“It’s not an easy track to get everything right. It’s quite technical and there are a few tricky corners. But I I’ve been getting more and more comfortable with the car and managed to get the lap together. Thankfully it was good enough for pole.

“I just want to say a big thanks to the team for giving me this car. It’s great that we’re both starting from the front row. We’ve done a really good job this weekend to focus on the evening conditions and really maximise the lap time in the car. We’ll enjoy this for a short period of time – but the main focus is the race tomorrow. There is no point to start dreaming just yet. It’s all about getting the maximum out of the race. As a team we can be really strong tomorrow.”

James Allison, Technical Director: “A first pole for Valtteri and it feels excellent. It’s lovely to have a front-row lockout and it’s a great reward to Valtteri for three excellent laps in qualifying today. We are all really happy.

“The gap to Ferrari is a little larger than in the first two races but rather than being surprised we’re just grateful for that small bit of breathing space. It will be different again tomorrow when everyone has their cars full of fuel – then we are sure to have our work cut out.

“We’re expecting the weather to change a fair bit for tomorrow, both windier and cooler. But it will be normal fare for Bahrain – tough on the brakes, tough on the drivers. It’ll be a long, hard toil, but hopefully we’ll end up at the front. It’s going to be super tight.”

 

Well done Valtteri!

 

A cracking lap and a few mistakes by Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas is on pole – his first ever in Formula One – for tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

Hamilton was ahead by 0.052 secs after the first laps in the top 10 shootout but appeared to have a scrappy final lap, allowing Bottas to edge ahead.

It was Mercedes’ first front-row lock-out of 2017, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in third 0.478 secs off the pace. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo took fourth ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Good news for the season ahead

 

We could have a fight on our hands.

Lewis Hamilton may have dominated today’s Chinese Grand Prix with Sebastian Vettel second and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen third – having moved up from 16th on the grid to finish third, but I’m pleased to say the season could turn out to be a humdinger between the two champions as Hamilton and Vettel battle it out.

Lewis Hamilton: “My pole lap put me in a great position and then the start was just fantastic. I’m really happy with my starts right now so I want to keep that up!

“During the race I needed to keep my composure in some really tricky conditions out there. After the pit stop under the Safety Car the speed was low and the tyres were very cold, so it would have been very easy to make a mistake, so I’m just grateful that I didn’t. In those final 20 laps Seb and I were just pounding around as fast as we could, exchanging fastest lap times, that’s what racing is all about.

“In the future there will be times when we don’t have a Safety Car and we won’t have that gap. I’m excited for that. It’s very close and there were times when it was hard to match Sebastian. It has been a fantastic weekend… Big congratulations to everyone, especially those back home, I hope they’re celebrating and feeling the spirit and the fight.”

Sebastian Vettel: “The race was a lot of fun, very entertaining. Conditions were tricky at the start, you never know what can happen in those moments, so I was perhaps a bit too conservative. Then we chose to change tyres since the track was quickly drying out, so that we could take advantage from the slicks; but luck was not on our side as the safety car came in right after.

“I can’t say how much this affected the final result, it was still a long way from there to the finish, but I think it had an effect. From then I had to work my way through the field, and I had a tense wheel-to-wheel fight with Ricciardo. I like this way of overtaking, when gaining position comes at a price and not simply by opening up the DRS.

“At that moment though, the gap to Lewis had widened, and I kept pushing to keep some pressure on him, while asking my engineer what pace was needed for me to catch him. I think that pace-wise we were a match today. Sometimes he was faster, sometimes I was: if we can fight with Mercedes also in Bahrain that will be again good news. We can still improve.”

 

New F1 season

It’s the dawn of a new era – in more ways than one. This is the first time that Formula One has changed the rules to make the cars faster.

The target with these new regulations was to make this generation of F1 cars the quickest in the history of the sport. And looking at the results from testing, we’re well on the way to achieving that. It’s something that’s never been done before and that’s a radical change.

“Having spoken to the drivers, these machines are violent – just like Formula One cars should be. I have been out on track watching them and, next to the previous generation of cars, these are properly spectacular cars. From a fan perspective – and a part of me will always be a fan – it really is something special. Any true motorsport lover simply has to see them in the flesh,” said Mercedes-Benz Motorsport’s Head, Toto Wolff.

“We have tackled with determination the challenge of the new regulations. We have been very successful over the last three years through stable rules – but no team has ever maintained its success over such a big regulation change before. In a way, it’s just what the doctor ordered. To have such a challenge is good for the team.”

Melbourne is a temporary street circuit and, as such, there are compromises to be made in the set-up of the car. It’s a circuit that is traditionally hard on brakes, but the biggest challenge will be optimising the tyres.

Adds Sahara Force India’s Team Principal, Dr Vijay Mallya: “I always say that Melbourne is a great place to start the season and this year there is so much to be excited about with the new generation of cars making their race debut. It’s interesting for the teams, the media and most importantly, the fans. Let’s hope we put on a great show to kick off the season in style.”

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