Valtteri Bottas admitted there had been smiles in the Alfa Romeo garage when their Constructors’ P6 rivals Aston Martin flopped in Mexican Grand Prix qualifying.
In contrast, it was a brilliant session for Bottas, who surprisingly found himself mixing it with Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari.
Having been seventh fastest in Q1 and higher for much of that 18-minute part-session, the Finn showed it was no fluke by ending Q2 in P6.
And again, that proved to be an accurate gauge of his and the car’s potential for he secured a sixth-place start, sandwiched in between the two Ferraris on the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez grid.
It represented a big step up in form for Alfa Romeo, who have sat sixth in the Constructors’ Championship for most of the season but are in danger of surrendering that placing to fast-improving Aston Martin.
However, qualifying has been the team in green’s Achilles heel all year and it surfaced again in Mexico as both Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll made Q1 exits just as Bottas was starting to impress.
“It’s a great opportunity [for us],” Bottas told Sky F1. “Obviously we shouldn’t focus too much on them, we should focus on our performance.
“But still, I could see a few smiles in the garage when they saw they were both out in Q1! You know that’s how it goes.
“But as I said, a great opportunity for us and we need some points now.”
1:18.401 – @ValtteriBottas splits the Ferraris and he’s P6!
Mighty session for the Finn, who will start UP THERE tomorrow! 🤩#MexicoGP
— Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN (@alfaromeoorlen) October 29, 2022
That last comment was an understatement from the former Mercedes driver, who enjoyed a terrific opening third of the campaign but has not scored since the Canadian Grand Prix in June, 11 races ago.
“It’s been a while that we’ve had a result like this in qualifying and I think it’s really uplifting for the whole team,” said Bottas.
“We’ve been performing well since the start of the week and then being able to just carry that performance on from practice one.
“It’s been quite an easy car to drive in a way. Since practice one I’ve just had good confidence and we started also with the right set-ups, so we’ve been only fine-tuning and building up from a good practice one.”
Bottas is optimistic he can maintain his starting position in the race, saying: “Based on all the runs we’ve done – low fuel, high fuel – we seem to be around sixth, seventh place, so I hope tomorrow is a good day because we need some points.”
Zhou Guanyu in the other Alfa Romeo is due to line up 12th, giving the team hope of a double points finish.