Valtteri Bottas says he was determined to claim pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix because he wanted to “cheer everyone up” at Mercedes after members of the team were caught up in an armed robbery.
With Lewis Hamilton out of qualifying following his crash in Q1, Bottas led the Silver Arrows’ challenge for pole in Brazil. The Finn found a late improvement on his final flying lap to pip Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to the fastest time by just 0.038s.
A Mercedes minibus full of team personnel was robbed at gunpoint in Sao Paulo on Friday night as they made their way back from the circuit to the team hotel, but no members of the team were injured. Bottas said the incident spurred him on to extract even more out of his performance and seal his third pole in F1.
“I spoke with them this morning and I said we were going to put it on pole position and cheer everyone up, so I’m glad we did that,” Bottas explained. “First of all I’m happy everyone is in one piece and nothing physical happened to anyone but it was a pretty bad situation to be in, and I’m happy everybody is still here.
“I’m very happy with the qualifying, from my side and also from the team’s side, except the unfortunate off Lewis had in the beginning. In the end it was all on me and I’m happy I delivered and I could put it on pole. The laps were getting better and better, but it was all the time very close, so I’m pleased that in the end I could get it all together in Q3, get a good lap and put it on pole. Very pleased.
“It’s really good to start on the pole here, we have a good car, it’s going to be a close race still with Ferrari, but I’d rather start from pole than, for example, from P3. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Bottas is 15 points adrift of Vettel in the battle over second place in the drivers’ standings and will close the gap if he can finish ahead of the German in Sunday’s 71-lap race. Bottas is confident he can overhaul Vettel in the championship in the final two races of the campaign.
“It’s always good to have a target, it makes you work harder and try harder. Our target is still to get second place in the championship. It is possible, Sebastian is leading me by 15 points, so we really need to have a strong race here and also in Abu Dhabi.”