Valtteri Bottas called his charge to third place on the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix “a good surprise” as Williams overhauled Ferrari and Red Bull on Saturday at Suzuka.
Williams has struggled to match the pace of Ferrari in recent races, losing more and more ground on the Italian team in the race for third place in the constructors’ championship.
In Singapore last weekend, Bottas and teammate Felipe Massa were well off the pace of both Ferrari and Red Bull, but had the measure on their rivals in qualifying at Suzuka.
Bottas will start tomorrow’s race from third place on the grid after beating Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by two-tenths of a second, which the Finn admitted he was surprised about.
“It’s very good for us, obviously,” Bottas said. “It’s a very different track to Singapore, so we knew it was going to be better for our car.
“I think we came in for this weekend in the dry with a good setup already, so we didn’t have that much work to do from practice to qualifying.
“Today was one of the most difficult Saturdays we’ve had because there was rain on Friday and here qualifying is very important, so a good surprise.”
Massa will start directly behind his teammate on the grid from P5 after he beat Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in the final stage of qualifying.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg claimed his second pole position of the season on Saturday at Suzuka, edging out teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton by 0.076 seconds in Q3.
The Japanese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 12:30am ET on Sunday.