Valtteri Bottas has conceded he struggled to match Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton for outright pace having missed vital practice work over the French Grand Prix weekend but was still thrilled to secure a front row start at Paul Ricard.

The Finnish driver was forced out of the majority of FP2 on Friday afternoon due to a water leak with his ‘2.1’-specification Mercedes engine before seeing most of the one-hour final practice on Saturday washed out by a heavy rain shower.

As a result, Bottas feels he never quite caught up Mercedes teammate Hamilton for optimum pace over a single lap so was content with ending qualifying just over one-tenth of a second off of the pole-sitter.

“It was not a bad lap but not a perfect lap either,” Bottas said. “I’ve been struggling to get perfect laps this weekend, missed pretty much all of FP2 and we didn’t do any running in FP3, so I was kind of catching up run by run, but one-two for us is perfect.”

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While Hamilton was hesitant to immediately praise the new Mercedes engine, which had been delayed from an initial introduction in Canada due to a quality issue reported at its Brixworth factory, Bottas felt the update was key to the team’s immediate qualifying jump in performance at Paul Ricard with a front row lockout.

“It feels good the new engine, it’s very fresh and the team has made an amazing job on that,” he said. “Hopefully also tomorrow we can prove that is good.

“I think we definitively needed it, it’s going to be a close season ahead and it was good to have it for this race. Obviously it would have helped the team in Montreal, but we’re here now and we’re in the first row, so it’s good.”

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