Valtteri Bottas says he was “fully going” to winning qualifying at the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix and that he was not asked to lift to assist Lewis Hamilton.
Bottas will start Sunday’s race from pole position as a result of his Mercedes teammate’s grid penalty for removing the season’s fourth engine before the race begins in Istanbul this weekend.
Bottas’ best time in Q3 was 0.13s slower than Hamilton’s, despite the fact that Bottas only did two flying laps in that segment, whereas Hamilton did three, the second of which produced the quickest time in qualifying (and another new Istanbul track record).
After two-thirds of his final Q3 flier, Bottas was 0.005s faster than Hamilton, but a slow closing sector – in which the Finn slipped deep at the Turn 12 left-hand hairpin at the end of Istanbul’s main straight – cost him the race.
“No, I wasn’t ordered to slow down and I was absolutely going for it,” Bottas replied in the post-qualifying press conference when asked if the late time loss was part of a plot to ensure Hamilton qualified ahead and thus begins 11th rather than 12th in the grand prix.
“I started to struggle a bit with the front end in the last sector, so I just had some understeer in Turn 12 and 14.
“I could feel that I was losing a bit of time – probably used the tyres a bit more earlier in the lap. So yeah, I was fully going for it, for sure.”
Because of “the issue we have with Lewis’s penalty,” Bottas also remarked that the way qualifying went for Mercedes was “ideal” and “perfect in a way.”
He added: “But the session itself – Q1 was tricky with the damp conditions and to be honest, even at the end of Q3 there was still a couple of spots that there was small damp places and you needed to be a bit cautious to find the best way around them.
“But I enjoyed it. The grip level was still decent and from the start of the weekend the car has been in a pretty good window in terms of the set-up.
“So, didn’t need to make massive changes. I enjoyed it.”
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