Valtteri Bottas is searching for answers to understand how he ended up over 0.6s adrift of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during qualifying for the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix.

Bottas had matched the championship leader for much of the weekend in Singapore and was quicker at times during qualifying, only to end up 0.687s off Hamilton in Q3 when the Briton turned in a stunning lap to seal pole position by 0.3s from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

As a result, Bottas will start Sunday's grand prix from fourth on the grid, alongside Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari. 

Singapore #5 Circuit of Champions

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“I can’t be happy with fourth because everything was going quite nicely in FP3 and even all the way until Q2 but suddenly the others could find more grip but I couldn’t,” Bottas admitted.

“That’s where the difference was in Q3, which I need to have a look at. I think the tyre preparation could have been slightly better but, at this point, I can’t see it as being the key.

“Our car was on pole position and that shows we have a pretty competitive car in here. I think Lewis did a great lap, my lap was definitively missing a bit, but not six or seven tenths.

“So, there is still something for me to understand, why such a big gap because it was pretty close between Lewis and me in FP3 and both in Q1 and Q2,” he added.

“Suddenly, I could improve but he could improve more. I’m really pleased we improved the car in what has been one of the most difficult races for us, I guess that’s good for tomorrow.”

Mercedes had been bracing itself for a tricky weekend in Singapore given its struggles to match rivals Ferrari and Red Bull for pace at last year’s event, but both Bottas and Hamilton were left encouraged by the team’s improvements.

When asked if he had a better feeling inside the car compared to last year, Bottas replied: “It felt better but it still doesn’t feel like the car is made for this track. It’s still tricky, especially the rear end out of the slow speed corners, but there was a lot of a better feeling compared to last years.”

Tyre degradation is set to play a major factor on Sunday after a number of teams and drivers struggled to make Pirelli’s Hypersoft compound work for consecutive laps in qualifying.

Bottas reckons strategy will prove pivotal and has called on Mercedes to be reactive in the race, given the high probability of the Safety Car being deployed.

“We saw in the FP2 long runs that basically all the teams had issues with graining, including us,” the Finn explained.

“More than ten laps will be difficult but it’s possible, because the track is evolving all through the weekend and from Friday to Sunday there can be a big difference in the way the tyres work.

“The main job is to make the tyres last, not to open the graining, so I think it’s going to be one stop for everyone.

“Normally whatever you plan for this race goes to the bin the time the first Safety Car comes out. The main thing is to be reactive and dynamic to whatever happens.”

 

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