Fit again Valtteri Bottas is 'Back' to his Best and ready to attack with Barcelona upgrades
The Bahrain Grand Prix proved that Valtteri Bottas has now recovered from the back injury which has dogged the start of his season and the Finn is ...
The Bahrain Grand Prix proved that Valtteri Bottas has now recovered from the back injury which has dogged the start of his season and the Finn is convinced that the latest raft of developments from Williams will allow the Grove outfit to get after Ferrari, starting with the Spanish Grand Prix in three weeks.
Having suffered with an injured back which prevented him from racing at the Australian Grand Prix, Bottas looked to be unhindered as he held off Sebastian Vettel for fourth. Bahrain is a stiff challenge for a back injury as there are four big stops every lap from over 300km/h to low speed - with a 6g deceleration at Turn 1 alone - every lap.
Bottas missed the Melbourne season opener with an annular disc tear in his lower back which continued to hinder his performances even after he returned to the cockpit at round two in Malaysia.
A new seating position in his Williams Mercedes FW37, along with continued rehabilitation, meant that last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix finally brought to an end the debilitating condition and allowed him close to sixth in the world championship, within a point of team-mate Felipe Massa, whose race was blighted by an electrical issue on the start line, which forced him to start from the pit lane.
Having qualified fifth and run in that position for much of race day in Sakhir, Bottas benefited from Vettel’s late race wing change and held off the four time world champion to provide a welcome boost for himself and his team, now 46 points adrift of the Italian squad.
Bahrain was also the first time that he out qualified Massa this year and prefaced a strong race day performance with no physical ailments preventing him from fighting off Vettel right through to the conclusion of the 57-lap race.
Bottas admitted in Bahrain that it was his first pain free weekend of the season and he remains convinced that it is the beginning of a resurgence for the team.
“It was a good battle in the end and I'm really pleased that we could get a few extra points by keeping him behind,” said the upbeat Finn. “I think we can see that we were a bit closer to them than in China. Obviously we still have a bit of work to do because if it would be a clean race for the top two teams we're clearly still third.
“We could work better with the option tyre, so the second stint was much more competitive than what we had in China. Even in the beginning it was not too bad, the Ferrari and Mercedes were not getting miles away. So progress, but we need more.”
“We do have some updates there, and obviously we have testing there as well.
“It didn't feel too bad for our car, and with getting updates for our car hopefully we can be a bit closer again to Ferrari and Mercedes. I think this race showed that we made a small step forward from China.”
The upgrades are overdue; Williams was expected to challenge Mercedes this season, but has seen Ferrari move ahead of it by some margin. Ferrari's rate of development has been impressive and if they keep it up they will stay out of reach of Williams and look to match and beat Mercedes.Williams is currently in a race of its own as third fastest team, as far behind Ferrari as it is ahead of Red Bull.
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