Valtteri Bottas says his first lap in Q3 that secured pole position at the Mexico City Grand Prix was nearly perfect as Mercedes found its sweet spot.
Red Bull had looked the class of the field throughout practice and the early part of qualifying, but Mercedes grew in competitiveness as the session went on and Bottas led a one-two ahead of Lewis Hamilton after both set their best times on first attempts of Q3. Bottas admits he didn’t expect such a result but felt Mercedes got the car in the perfect window for the final part of the session.
“I definitely surprised myself and our performance as a team,” Bottas said. “We seemed to be a bit off, especially on a single lap, against Red Bull. I would say the performance in Q3 was a bit of a surprise. It was a good lap, we managed to optimize the set-up since FP3 this morning, and everything with the tire temperatures. Managed to get everything near perfection and that’s the result, so, rewarding.
“It was awesome laps, especially my lap in the first run of Q3. I couldn’t quite match the final sector on the last one, but I think honestly that first run in Q3 was one of my best laps. And it’s a good feeling.
“This morning the car was really good. We were lacking a bit of pace on lap one, but I think with the higher temperatures this afternoon it came out way. I think we tried to optimize everything with tire temperatures and set-ups. It was a joy to drive.”
Bottas and Hamilton will have the two Red Bull drivers directly behind them on the grid on Sunday, and the Finn is wary of how crucial the start will be with a long run to the first corner.
“(Race pace) is what we’ll find out tomorrow,” Bottas said. “At least what we saw in the long runs, in practice it seemed pretty similar to Red Bull. I think it’s going to be a difficult start of the race, but it’s good that we have both cars on the front row. But, they’re right behind us and will get a big tow going into Turn 1, so it could be an interesting beginning of the race and we need to figure out how to stay in front.”