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“It would be nice to have a battle with Mercedes” – Valtteri Bottas

It was a welcomed return to Qualifying 3 for Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN, with Valtteri Bottas qualifying an incredible sixth and rookie team-mate Guanyu Zhou in fourteenth at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Very few would’ve predicted that Bottas would be qualifying on the third row for the Bahrain Grand Prix, let alone alongside his former Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team team-mate Lewis Hamilton, or three places ahead of George Russell, the man who replaced Bottas at Mercedes! The Finnish driver looked brilliant in qualifying but most importantly he looked comfortable, something he rarely appeared to be in his latter days at the Silver Arrows.

Bottas is very pleased to be starting sixth and is hopeful of a strong points haul on Sunday, he also wouldn’t mind a battle against his former team!

“To be on the third row in our first qualifying together is a big achievement and we need to be satisfied – both me and the team. My session was really smooth and I improved a little bit in every run, which is what you set out to do in qualifying. It’s an important moment for us as it shows we can be up here. I am proud of the job everyone did, here and at the factory: we knew we had a chance to be in Q3 but it was good to actually do it when everyone turned up with everything they had.

“Now we focus on the race: our long run pace looked even better than on the single lap, so we can be in the fight. The top four are probably out of reach for everyone, but it would be nice to have a battle with Mercedes. In any case, this is the start of our journey and I want us to look forward and not back: the objective is to be up here at the flag and bring home good points.”

“Once I made it into Q2 the pressure was off” – Guanyu Zhou

On the other side of the Swiss-team’s garage, rookie Guanyu Zhou performed admirably for his first qualifying in Formula 1. The first-ever Chinese Formula 1 driver did well to make it out of Qualifying 1, out-qualifying some big names whilst doing so, including Daniel Ricciardo.

Unfortunately for Zhou his best lap in Qualifying 2 was deleted, however it was highly unlikely that he would’ve challenged a top ten spot. Nevertheless the C42 clearly has some very strong pace this season which will feel Zhou with optimism.

Zhou is ecstatic with making into the top fifteen and believes he has a good opportunity to make up some ground during the race.

“I am really happy with Q2 on my first race weekend. This was always my initial target and to clear this box in my first race is something that I really wanted after seeing how the car performed in the practice sessions. I was very relaxed this morning as I knew my preparation for tonight had been good, but there was still a bit of pressure as I knew we could have a good result: once I made it to Q2, the pressure was off and I could give everything in the laps I had. Unfortunately, my best attempt was deleted – I saw the replay and it was really close.

“We lost one place due to that, but we’re still in a good position: there are a lot of positives we can take ahead of tomorrow. I am pleased with the progress I have made from one session to the other this weekend: even during qualifying, there was a lot of evolution as the session progressed, so the learning never stops. I don’t have a set target for my first race – I want to move forward as I know we were good in race trim during testing, so we have an opportunity to make up places. I know everyone will be watching at home, it’s great to have so much support and I want to give everything for them and for the team.”

Credit: Xavi Bonilla / DPPI

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