Valtteri Bottas was just one sector away from securing his first ever Formula 1 pole position in Russia today, falling just short in the final part of Q3 to qualifying third for tomorrow’s race in Sochi.
Bottas has enjoyed a superb season with Williams, scoring four podium finishes to rank sixth in the drivers’ championship. In a year that Mercedes has ruled with an iron fist, he has been one of the breakout stars.
In Russia, Mercedes looked to have pole position sewn up once again today, only for Bottas to go quicker than both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the first two sectors of his final hot lap.
However, his tires faded at the last corner, sending him wide and forcing him to settle for third place on the grid.
“I didn’t know at that time I was close to pole, I only knew how it was compared to my best lap which was the previous lap,” Bottas explained after the session. “I had one more lap to go, maybe looking back I took a bit too much out of the tires at the beginning of the lap, and the last sector became a bit more tricky.
“As I was gaining time compared to my best towards the end, it became more difficult in the last few corners. I risked a bit too much in the last two corners and went a little bit wide. Here, when you go off line, it’s really slippery like everyone saw, and that was it.”
Bottas admitted that he felt disappointed to have missed the chance for his first F1 pole position, but he thinks that pole sitter Lewis Hamilton would still have been ahead of him had he not run wide.
“Of course, yeah,” Bottas said when asked if he was disappointed. “It’s not nice to make a mistake, but in the end, today maybe cost one place maximum.
“The mistake was taking a bit too much out of the tires at the beginning of the lap. That’s what made me struggle in the end of the lap. The lap before, I’m quite happy about that.”
You can watch tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET tomorrow.