Valtteri Bottas was left to rue a yellow flag on his final qualifying run that cost him the chance to challenge Lewis Hamilton for pole position at the Tuscan Grand Prix.
The flying Finn had the edge on his Mercedes team-mate in every practice session and also in Q1, but Hamilton turned the tables in Q2 – and also when it mattered just as grid positions at Mugello were on the line.
Hamilton’s pole lap was set on his first run, but he only had 0.059sec in hand. That gave Bottas every chance of getting ahead, but the opportunity evaporated when he had to back off on his final run when the yellow flags came out after Esteban Ocon had spun his Renault.
Asked in his post-qualifying interview to confirm he had been compromised by the yellow flag, Bottas replied: “Definitely. I still had more time in there. I was just waiting for the time to get it all right.
“The first run was okay, not perfect, and I was looking forward to the second but didn’t get the opportunity. I knew exactly where I could improve. It’s disappointing because I’ve had good speed all weekend.
“I really felt I had it this weekend. With hindsight, I should have done a better job on the first run and Lewis got a better lap at that point.”
WHAT A BATTLE!!! @LewisHamilton beats @ValtteriBottas to his first Mugello pole by just 0.059s! 💪 pic.twitter.com/0ppP8oyrJs
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) September 12, 2020
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What Bottas needs to do now is get a good start in the race – an aspect he has struggled with several times this year, especially at Monza last week when he lost several positions on the opening lap.
But at least the 31-year-old is encouraged that overtaking may prove to be slightly easier than most people have anticipated.
“Coming into the weekend we thought it was going to be nearly impossible (to overtake),” said Bottas.
“But from what we’ve experienced in practice sessions, the track is so wide and there are so many different lines you can take in the corners that maybe…I really hope so.
“I was looking at the F3 race and there was some good overtaking there, so hopefully the racing will be better than expected here.
“It’s a long run down into Turn 1 and I hope the headwind stays for the race start because that would be a nice benefit that could help me as the car behind.
“I’ve been really enjoying it all weekend and everything is still all set for tomorrow. It was really nice to see the long-run pace, even against Lewis, was really strong on Friday. I just need to put that to good use tomorrow.”
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