Mercedes in its "own league" in Austria, admits Bottas

Mercedes Formula 1 driver Valtteri Bottas says that his team is in its “own league” after a dominant performance in qualifying in Austria, while teammate Lewis Hamilton insisted he didn’t expect to see such an advantage.

Mercedes in its "own league" in Austria, admits Bottas

Bottas was fastest on the first runs in Q3, but went off the road on his second. However teammate Hamilton failed to beat Bottas' time, allowing the Finn to hold onto pole position.

The closest challenger to the Mercedes drivers, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, was over half a second behind in third.

“It feels really good,” said Bottas. “I’ve missed these feelings – after the qualifying ‘shakes’, it’s something special when you’ve pushed the car to the limit, and I’ve obviously been preparing this for a long time. It feels so good. You can’t say more than that, and our team, amazing job, we seem to be in our own league.

“It’s very impressive to see, it’s only the first qualifying of the season, but I’m so impressed, so thanks everyone in the team, all the factories. It’s a truly amazing car to drive, but tomorrow is what matters.”

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Hamilton said that the team’s form came as a surprise.

“We definitely didn’t expect to have that gap,” said the reigning world champion. “But it’s a true showing of the great work that everyone back on the factory continues to do. Valtteri did a better job with his lap, and it’s amazing. I don’t know what to say really, we did not expect to have that sort of gap.

“Definitely quick enough to be fighting for the lead, but there were different showings of the other teams, sometimes quick, sometimes a little bit further behind. That’s the true showing of our car, and we plan on trying to improve that.”

Hamilton said there are good reasons why Mercedes started the year so strongly.

“I think we show year-on-year that we are the best team, that’s because we are open-minded, we’re current with the times," he said. "The guys that I work with are never too stubborn to admit that they might be wrong, and we’re constantly always learning from each other.

“We’re always pushing the boundaries. There’s not really any politics within the team, so it’s a united team that we push together. That’s why every year we come back, because that’s not necessarily always the same in teams.

Regarding his own performance he added: “The car was great, I just didn’t manage to put the greatest lap together, so work for myself to do. I’ll just go back to the drawing board and work harder.”

Hamilton said his lap was not compromised by Bottas running off the road in front of him.

“I came round Turn 4 I think, and there as a big puff of dust. I didn’t know where the car was or anything like that, but I managed to see that Valtteri was just about to come back on the track. Fortunately it didn’t really affect the lap, and he kept his position.”

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