Williams can target top three on Austria grid, says Valtteri Bottas
Despite midfield practice positions, Bottas optimistic Williams can "definitely be as close to the front as any race before" this weekend
By James Galloway at the Red Bull Ring
Last Updated: 19/06/15 7:06pm
Valtteri Bottas believes Williams shouldn’t be discounted from challenging for the top two rows of the grid at the Austrian GP after the team ran under the radar on Friday to focus on updates to their car.
The Red Bull Ring, which features a number of long straights, has again been expected to suit the Mercedes-powered FW37 but Williams, polesitters in 2014, gave little indication of their pace in practice as both of their cars finished outside of the top 10 in the quicker second session.
However, neither Bottas nor team-mate Felipe Massa were left unduly worried by their end-of-Friday positions on the timesheet after both spent the day evaluating the upgrade package Williams have brought to this race. The aerodynamic changes, which include revisions to the car’s floor and rear wing, were given the thumbs-up by Bottas, who was 14th fastest.
“Everything worked really as expected,” he said.
“The final option [tyre] run with a little bit lower fuel load in Practice Two was disturbed by some problem which they are investigating, but with the primes it was pretty good.
“And the long run seemed to be quite good even though I had a lot of traffic. But the pace wasn’t too bad.”
Massa, who was 15th, added: “We just fixed everything around the car and then the long run was very good. It was okay – I think it was a good day for us. Unfortunately the lap time is not there, but compared to everything we were doing it was not so important.”
And while the lap time may not have been evident on the opening day, Bottas has high hopes that Williams can make an impact higher up the order in qualifying.
“I think we’ll be really close and definitely be as close to the front as any race before," he predicted.
“Hopefully we will be really close with Ferrari and fighting for a top-three qualifying position would be a good target.”
Although it was Ferrari, unusually, who set the overall pace ahead of Mercedes, the world champions are still likely to remain the team to beat over a single qualifying lap on Saturday.
Massa's pole position in Austria last year remains the only time since the start of 2014 that a works Mercedes hasn't been on pole and the veteran Brazilian says Williams will use memories of that result as inspiration.
“Mercedes is very strong, even if Ferrari showed they are quite competitive," Massa said. "We will have a difficult weekend in front of us, but I remember everything that happened last year – more in the qualifying than the race – but let’s try to repeat it.”
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