Valtteri Bottas has described Lewis Hamilton’s grid drop penalty for the Austrian Grand Prix as “a big opportunity to get closer to him” in the Formula 1 world championship fight.

After securing second place in qualifying, Hamilton was handed a three-place grid penalty for impeding Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen during Q1 which drops him to fourth place due to Kevin Magnussen’s own five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox in his Haas.

The shuffle in the starting grid sees an all-Mercedes second row with Bottas directly ahead of Hamilton in third place.

With the Finn starting in front of his Mercedes teammate for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix, Bottas is eager to make the most of the chance as he looks to close up the 36-point deficit at the top of the drivers’ standings on the reigning F1 world champion.

“For me it’s a big opportunity to get closer to him in the points. And it’s also one position better in the grid, which we always take,” Bottas said. “That’s how it is and it will be up to me and for us to have a good race from third place.

“For sure he’s not starting far away, and will be trying everything to come up, but we have a decent starting point for the race, if we look at the championship.

“If winning is possible – which I still believe it is – that’s the target. If it’s not, then we need to score the maximum amount of points that will be possible.”

Bottas also feels Mercedes has made the right call to start the race on the medium tyres, compared to pole-sitter Charles Leclerc who will have the softs on his Ferrari, as it opens up his strategy options to attack during the race.

“Everything is possible and for my feeling we’re definitely starting on the right tyre,” he said. “It could be a small disadvantage for the start and for the first one or two laps, but I think going on the medium opens more opportunities for us than for Charles, for example, in terms of strategy.

“We can go a bit longer, if needed, but we can also stop a bit earlier if we want and put the harder tyre.”

Bottas has not finished ahead of Hamilton since he won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix with the British driver coming home in second place in Baku.



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