After Austria success, Williams optimistic going into Silverstone

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With Valtteri Bottas earning his inaugural Formula One podium and Felipe Massa coming home fourth, this year’s Austrian Grand Prix will be remembered fondly by Williams.

But the page has been turned and now the team is seeking another big points haul in this weekend’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which is a unique creature among the other high-speed circuits in F1 according to head of vehicle performance Rob Smedley.

“It poses a real challenge to the engineers and drivers as we have to set the cars up for such high speed corners like Abbey, Copse and the Maggotts-Becketts complex,” Smedley said. “The car does have to be set up differently from other high speed circuits. The layout has high power and drag sensitivity which should suit our car this season.

“Depending on the temperature, we can suffer from rear tire graining,. However, the hard tire we have for the weekend could also suffer from low-temperature issues which we will have to manage. The weather always plays a huge part in the weekend as it can change from session to session.”

Sunday’s race will also be a milestone for Massa, as it will serve as his 200th Grand Prix start in a career that has been filled with highs and lows – 11 Grand Prix victories, a near-miss in the 2008 World Championship, and a frightening head injury in 2009 at Hungary that nearly cost him his life.

But after joining Williams over the off-season following a long tenure at Ferrari, the Brazilian appears to be having more fun these days – and as his fourth-place result in Austria showed, he’s still capable of putting up good performances.

“Silverstone will be a special race, not just because it is the team’s home race, but also because I shall celebrate my 200th Grand Prix,” he said. “British fans are passionate about Formula One and it will be great to see the support for the team. Silverstone is a very quick track and good downforce is needed.

“I really like the Maggotts-Becketts complex; it’s a really fast part of the track and very important to get right. It will be interesting to see if we can maintain the pace we had in Austria, but the main focus will be on getting some good points.

As for Bottas, he too is optimistic heading into one of F1’s most prestigious events.

“We are hoping for a good result again, but will have to wait and see how the track suits us,” he said. “We are aiming to be strong and to build on the momentum we have coming from Austria.”

Valtteri Bottas on Silverstone pole; Nico Hulkenberg a surprising third

F1 Bottas Hamilton Silverstone
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Valtteri Bottas nipped Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in Silverstone qualifying Saturday to maintain the team’s hammerlock on F1 results this season while Nico Hulkenberg was a surprise in third.

Hulkenberg is filling in for Sergio Perez for the second consecutive race while the Racing Point driver recovers from coronavirus.

It’s the best F1 start since 2016 for Hulkenberg, who was left without a full-time ride after the 2019 season. He finished 20th at Silverstone last week when an engine problem on the grid prevented him ftaking the green.

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“The last seven to eight days have been crazy,” Hulkenberg said after qualifying. “This weekend I felt much better prepared. Q3 was just head down, full beans, and give it whatever I had.

“I’m a bit surprised to be standing here, but there’s a big smile on my face.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified fourth and will be among the field trying to derail the Mercedes duo that has won the first four races of an F1 season delayed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Feels good,” Bottas said after nipping Hamilton by a few hundredths of a second on his final lap for his 13th career pole position. ” I just love qualifying especially, when it goes well. Proud to drive this car. The race pace is there, so our first job is to get a good start off the line tomorrow and go from there.”

The impressive lap came two days after Bottas, who won the season opener in Austria, announced a one-year contract extension with the team.

Mercedes also is set to begin negotiating a new deal with Hamilton, who has won the past three races in F1 but was disappointed Saturday.

“Valtteri did a great job, but for me, it wasn’t a perfect last lap,” he said. “I don’t think many teams will be doing a one-stop race tomorrow so let’s wait and see how things turn out.”