SILVERSTONE -- Valtteri Bottas says the gap to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for the British Grand Prix should never have been as big as it was.
After topping both Friday practice sessions, Bottas was on the back foot on Saturday after an unscheduled gearbox change meant he went into qualifying with a five-place grid penalty hanging over him. In the end he qualified fourth, meaning he will start the race ninth, but it was the 0.776s gap to Hamilton that really stood out.
"Of course I'm disappointed because I was in good form yesterday," he said. "We definitively had the fastest car today and I was targeting nothing less that fighting for pole position. I'm disappointed at being fourth and, of course, with the unfortunate gearbox penalty I'll have to start ninth. That's far from ideal and the gap to the front was way, way too big.
"For sure Lewis was really on it, he had a great lap, but I know myself for a fact that the difference should have never been that big. We did have a bit of a difference on the approach to the out laps, so I really think he managed to get the tyres to work, in these cooler conditions, better than me. My main problem in qualifying was just overall grip, not the balance of the car, I just couldn't feel the grip, it was very easy to make slides and stuff like that."
Bottas switched from the super-soft compound tyre to the soft for the second part of qualifying so that he will start the race on the more durable compound on Sunday. Like Hamilton, who adopted the same strategy when he had a gearbox penalty in Austria, Bottas said switching between compounds midway through qualifying affected the rhythm of his session.
"I still need to understand more why there was such a big difference with the grip and the lap time, but for sure one thing that didn't help me was that I did two runs with soft tyres in Q2 while Lewis did those two runs with the super-softs, so he kind of learned how that tyre was behaving in those conditions and maybe could extract more for that reasons.
"I thought the gap between the soft and the super-soft, in these conditions, was bigger than what we had seen yesterday, which was a bit surprising for me. So that's it but, for sure, well done to Lewis who will be starting from pole tomorrow. That's good but as we've seen many times in the past is the Sunday that counts."
However, Bottas still thinks the benefits of starting the race on softs will outweigh the negatives the strategy presented in qualifying.
"I was really up for it when we started to speak about starting the race on the soft tyre, as that offered different strategic possibilities in this race. We calculated there's quite a few different strategies you can make work.
"And it seems like almost all the cars are more or less in a similar approach; I'm in a different approach and given the amount of cars that are slower in race pace that start ahead of me, it's definitively the right choice for us. We'll find out tomorrow if that's so."