Valtteri Bottas says he was “blown away” by Mercedes’ qualifying performance as it locked out the front-row of the grid for the Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Having dominated proceedings throughout practice, Mercedes’ apparent pace advantage continued in qualifying as Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole position ahead of Bottas, with the pair six tenths clear of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari. 

Mercedes arrived in Melbourne convinced it would be behind Ferrari in the pecking order following a strong showing from the Scuderia in pre-season testing, leading Hamilton to describe the gap to Ferrari as a “real shock”. 

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Bottas echoed his teammate’s comments, adding that Mercedes could not have imagined being in such a commanding position following winter testing. 

“I’m a little bit blown away by the team performance we had today,” Bottas said. 

“Yesterday it was looking good, but it was only practice, today it was the first sessions of the year that really counted and I don’t think anyone in the team could imagine we would be in this position after the testing we had. 

“But everyone in the team has been working so hard, and that made this possible. This is only one session, tomorrow is the main day.”

The Finn had looked set to land his first pole position since the 2018 Russian Grand Prix after leading the way following the opening salvo of Q3 runs, but Hamilton found an improvement of over half a second on his final effort to snatch pole by 0.112s. 

“Of course, I would prefer to be on pole but the race is tomorrow and starting from the front row is good,” Bottas added.

“I was in the wall after qualifying last year! Historically it’s never been the best track for me, I feel I never managed to get a good qualifying or race around here, for some reason. 

“But I managed to build up during this weekend, I really started from zero and tried to learn session by session. 

“It was pretty clean with my driving and with the car, especially in the first lap in Q3 I was really enjoying driving the car and that’s when the lap times are good. 

“Of course, there were still a few things to improve, as Lewis showed on his last lap. It was close enough, so much better than one year ago.”

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