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Bottas learning to keep calm and carry on

Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes - Japanese Grand Prix
© XPB 

After a difficult few weeks, Valtteri Bottas was looking back to his former self on Saturday in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

He was second fastest at the end of Q3, albeit a third of a second behind his record-breaking Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton. However, a penalty for a gearbox change means that Bottas will actually start five places back on the grid tomorrow.

"It's a shame to lose the position due to a grid penalty," he said. "P1 and 2 at this point, but obviously with the gearbox penalty, starting seventh.

"My driving was really getting better towards qualifying. I think there was still something to be found."

Even so, Bottas was feeling a lot happier with his overall performance so far this weekend.

"It's been a few tough races," he admitted. "I've been off the pace quite a lot. So now I'm at least a bit closer. And with the limited running we had today, it really wasn't too bad."

The day wasn't without its dramas, however. After setting the fastest time in final practice he then ran off and into the barriers, damaging the car. He also had a scare early in qualifying when he ran wide at Degner.

"It was a tricky day," Bottas acknowledged. "I had a bit of an off in FP3 and the car was damaged. But the guys did a great job getting the car back together, everything worked perfectly.

"The car has been feeling really different this weekend compared to last week," he continued. "I was able to trust it more and drive a bit more naturally which always makes the result better."

The past few races had, he admitted, taught him an important life lesson.

"I should never lose self-confidence; it's the key in this sport," he said. "I just need to carry on, keep chipping away and learning from everything."

Starting tomorrow's race from seventh is far from ideal. But Bottas is counting on a contrary tyre strategy to help him fight his way back to the front once the lights go out.

"I'm going to start on the soft tyre," he said, having set his fastest time in Q2 on the yellow-walled compounds. "I think we have a chance to try a different strategy to all the other cars around.

"Hopefully we can gain a few places as overtaking is very difficult on this track."

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