Valtteri Bottas Pleased With “encouraging” Start To 2021 Qatar Grand Prix Weekend

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas has admitted that he is pleased with his “encouraging start to the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix weekend.

Bottas finished third in an unrepresentative FP1 in hot weather conditions but finished fastest in FP2 in cooler representative conditions of Qualifying and race.

Reflecting on how his Friday Practice has unfolded, Bottas admitted that his set-up balance was “good” with just “a few minor tweaks” made in the gap between sessions, with the Mercedes driver admitting that his performance marked “an encouraging” start to the weekend at a new circuit.

Bottas though revealed that he isn’t resting on his laurels as he said: “It’s not far off the sweet spot, obviously there’s always work to do and improvements to find and even with driving, you can’t find all the speed available in just two sessions.

“We’ll keep on working. It’s hard to draw conclusions from today, practice is practice, but the feeling is okay and that’s promising for the rest of the weekend.”

Lewis Hamilton meanwhile endured a “tricky day” as he finished fourth in both sessions and feels “definitely a bit off the benchmark.”

Hamilton though felt that Losail International Circuit was “okay to drive,” despite experiencing no issues apart from the physicality of the “high speed corners” which forms the majority of the track layout.

Reflecting on what he needs to do if he is to improve and clinch pole tomorrow, Hamilton commented: “We have some speed to find but we completed plenty of laps, so that’s encouraging, and it gives us plenty of data to look into tonight. We’ll see what progress we can make tomorrow.”

Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, Andrew Shovlin meanwhile described Friday Practice as “an interesting challenge”, as the team visit Qatar for the first time but feels that today’s performance is promising.

Shovlin in particular praised Bottas for delivering a “smooth” programme with positive pace across low and high fuel runs, whilst Hamilton ran an alternative set-up in order to assess the on-track performance and Shovlin believes that Bottas’ set-up is better suited to the circuit following analysis.

This weekend though is crucial for Hamilton if he is to reduce his title deficit to Verstappen down from 14 points heading into the final two races next month, although Shovlin is positive about the “good direction” of the team heading into FP3 with balance their only slight concern.

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