Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – After losing the final pole of the season to Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas said the tyres were the main problem.
Mercedes headed into the final part of qualifying looking for their sixteenth pole of the year and after being 1-2 in both Q1 and Q2. The first of the Q3 runs saw Verstappen split the two Silver Arrows, with Bottas on provisional pole but while Bottas and Hamilton improved their times on their final fast laps, the Red Bull was the one to make the most of it and come out tops. Verstappen ended up on pole by just 0.026 seconds.
Bottas said the soft tyres that were used for Q3 don’t suit the Mercedes as well as the medium compound do and that, coupled with cooler temperatures, was where they lost out.
“We saw in practice three that Red Bull, and especially in the hands of Max, was quick,” Bottas said after the session. “I think the main issue was we couldn’t really get the soft tyres to work properly so all the way until qualifying the medium tyre was feeling better for us than the soft.
“I think we made some improvements, still looking at the result I don’t think we got 100% out of the single lap from the tyres. The lap itself, I wasn’t fully happy with how everything went, the balance was not quite perfect, obviously small margins and tomorrow’s the day.”
“Towards the end of the qualifying I started to struggle a bit more with the front end of the car, maybe with the track temp cooling down. “It made it difficult to improve more because I thought we should have been quite a bit quicker than the earlier sessions, but obviously Red Bull managed to optimise everything for the last part of the qualifying which matters.”
The Finn will start ahead of his seven-time World Champion teammate, Hamilton, and believes that the fight for victory will be between the top three. All three will start on the Medium compound. He added that no one really knows what their long run pace is like this weekend but, given the Mercedes is normally strong wherever they go, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
“It’s going to be a close one, at least between us three. In general we have a strong package no matter which track, I think everyone’s long running was compromised but we know we have a strong car and I felt more comfortable with the medium tyres so hopefully we can have a good pace and I’m sure we will fight for the win.”