Valtteri Bottas has targeted a serious points haul for the Williams team after landing a place on the front row of the grid for the Russian Grand Prix.
Returning to the Sochi Autodrom track where he was denied a possible podium finish after a coming together with fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen last autumn, Bottas combined an improved Williams car with misfortune for two of his rivals to land P2 behind championship leader Nico Rosberg on Sunday's grid, giving Williams its first front row start since Germany in 2014.
Without opposition from Lewis Hamilton, who was denied a shot at pole by returning mechanical woes, and Sebastian Vettel, who picked up a five-place penalty on Friday that would remove him from front row contention, Bottas produced a time that was good enough to prevent Raikkonen from inheriting the spot alongside Rosberg, even though neither improved on the final run of the day.
“Nico is still ahead of us, but it was a very good qualifying session and I'm very pleased how everything went,” the Williams driver reported, “The whole weekend has been very positive - we have some new bits in the car and they obviously helped us today as the car has been feeling better – but this has always been a good track for us, and I'm glad we were able to maximise it today.”
By posting the third fastest time on the Q3 result sheet, Bottas mirrored his previous qualifying performance in Sochi, and admitted that it had been a relief to elevate Williams out of the battle for row three back.
“Hopefully we're back where we should be,” he intoned, “We want to be higher up, of course, but this season it is extremely difficult to beat Ferrari and Mercedes. We're trying to really close the gap but, today, it's nice that we're clear of Red Bull and Toro Rosso as they have been challenging us in the last few races. I think the updates we brought here helped us a bit, but this track also suits us better that the previous races we've had so far this year.”
Currently tenth in the drivers' standings, Bottas knows that he – and Williams – need to make progress now that the season is heading back into Europe.
“I'm pleased with today and with this result, as it puts us in a good position for the race, for tomorrow, to get some good points,” he confirmed, “We need those points - my Sundays haven't been great so far this year, but I'm sure, tomorrow, we'll have the chance to have a good one.”