Valtteri Bottas believes pole position was out of reach for Mercedes even without a “messy” end to qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix on Saturday that left him a provisional P4 on the grid.

Bottas finished the final stage of Formula 1 qualifying at the Red Bull Ring over half a second adrift from pole-sitter Charles Leclerc, having complained about traffic and time management during his final run of the session.

“It was a bit of messy Q3 in terms of traffic,” Bottas explained after qualifying. “We left already quite late for the first run.  There were some cars backing off and everything but the first run was all good from that side.

“In the second run, everybody more or less parked on the last sector. We did have a bit of an issue with the communication, so the message for me was that I was going to make it to the line super-close, so in the last corner, after Leclerc got ahead of me, I was right behind him in the last corner.

“I was going super-slow, so I got a very poor exit out of the last corner and lost quite a chunk of time into Turn 1, plus the tyre preparation wasn’t there, after cruising around in Sector 3 on the out lap.

“On the last run I couldn’t get them into the sweet spot and it was a bit messy. We’ve already had a debrief and discussed the communications, so for sure we learned something today in terms of the information I need to get a good preparation.”

Bottas will rise to third on the final starting grid on Sunday after Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton was hit with a post-qualifying penalty.

Asked if he thought pole was possible without the late Q3 issues, Bottas said: “I don’t think so. When I saw the time I thought we couldn’t match that.

“Also, we’ve seen the data, and the gap is too big. We’re still quicker than Ferrari in all the corners, but they are making more gains on the straights and on this track they’ve been really strong.

“For me the maximum, for me, would have been P2 on the grid. I’m P3, so it’s not a disaster and it was a lot worse in Montreal, for example.”

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