Valtteri Bottas says scoring back-to-back pole positions in Brazil and Abu Dhabi is a “good basis” for a stronger display through the 2018 Formula 1 season, but is eager to end the season with a victory at Yas Marina on Sunday.
Bottas scored two race wins through his first half-season with Mercedes in Russia and Austria to put himself in contention for the drivers’ championship, only for his form to tail off through the second half of the year.
Bottas was unable to convert pole position into victory two weeks ago in Brazil, finishing the race second behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, but will have another chance to do so in Abu Dhabi on Sunday after topping qualifying for Mercedes.
“It’s only the fourth pole of my whole career and I had to beat some pretty good qualifiers, so it’s a great feeling to start from P1 tomorrow,” Bottas said after heading up a one-two finish for Mercedes in qualifying ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton.
“It was a really good qualifying, clean and smooth. With the changes we made, the car was behaving much better in qualifying than it did in free practice.
“Run after run, I could always find some time here and there, I really worked on the details.
“But the weekend is not over yet; we want to finish strong tomorrow as well. We were nearly there in Sao Paulo and now I get a second opportunity. It would mean a lot to end the season on a high.
“However, no matter how tomorrow goes, it will be nice to head into the winter break knowing that I had the speed to be on pole two races in a row.
“That’s a good feeling and a good basis to start working for 2018.”
Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”
The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.
“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”
Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.