Last-lap pole ‘spot on’ for Bottas

Last-lap pole ‘spot on’ for Bottas

NURBURGRING • Valtteri Bottas is looking to pick up where he left off after he seized pole position for the Eifel Grand Prix yesterday, with Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton alongside on the front row of the grid at the Nurburgring.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who had been on provisional pole after the first flying laps of the final session at the German circuit, qualified in third place, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc fourth.

Bottas’ pole was his third of 2020 and an 11th in 11 races this season for Mercedes but this one looked in the balance right to the end.

“It’s such a nice feeling when you get it on the last lap, with the last chance,” said the Finn after celebrating his 14th career pole. He was fastest by just 0.256 of a second.

“The last lap in Q3 (the final phase) was spot on. Of course I believe I can win. That’s the only goal for tomorrow and hopefully we can have a good start.”

Bottas, who won the Russian Grand Prix the last time out, is 44 points behind six-time world champion Hamilton (205), who will still fancy his chances of equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 career wins at a track that last hosted an F1 race in 2013.

“Valtteri is two tenths ahead so he did a great job, so congrats to him,” said the Briton. “There’s a lot to play for tomorrow, so I need to get my head down.

“It’s an amazing circuit, one of the historic circuits we have, so definitely great to be back here.”

Verstappen was content with third place, saying: “We are getting closer to Mercedes which I think is very positive.

“A little bit disappointing, I was expecting a little bit more. It’s just in Q3, it started understeering a bit too much and, when it’s so cold, you’re graining the front tyres and basically eating up the rubber when that happens. That cost me a bit of lap time.”

Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg will make an unexpected appearance today from last place on the grid, after replacing an unwell Lance Stroll at Racing Point.

Separately, Formula One’s governing body on Friday approved a ban on the sort of “reverse engineering” that allowed the Racing Point team to compete this season with a car resembling last year’s title-winning Mercedes.

The FIA said its World Motor Sport Council had approved changes to the 2021 technical regulations “that will prevent the extensive use of reverse engineering of rival designs for the design of a car’s aerodynamic surfaces”.

Racing Point’s ‘Pink Mercedes’ design led to a protest by rivals Renault, with the team fined €400,000 (S$640,000) by stewards and docked 15 points for copying Mercedes’ 2019 brake ducts.

The team were allowed to continue competing without having to redesign the offending parts.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE