Mercedes' driver Valtteri Bottas powers his car during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix qualifying session at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on November 11, 2017
Sao Paulo (AFP) - Valtteri Bottas allowed himself a roar of delight on Saturday when he claimed pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix after Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had crashed out of contention.
The 28-year-old Finn said he was delighted to succeed because he had promised to take pole to boost spirits in the team after some members had been robbed at gunpoint on Friday when they left the track in a mini-bus.
“I spoke with them this morning and I said we were going to put it on pole position and cheer everyone up, so I’m glad we did that,” said Bottas.
“First of all, I’m happy everyone is in one piece and nothing physical happened to anyone, but it was a pretty bad situation to be in and I’m happy everybody is still here.”
Bottas’s pole brought to an end a difficult period during which he had slid out of contention for the drivers’ championship and been out-qualified by Hamilton at every race since the mid-season break in August.
“For sure, it has been more difficult, sometimes better, but that’s how it goes in racing,” added Bottas, who said he felt a duty to perform for the team especially after Hamilton, who clinched his fourth drivers world title in Mexico two weeks ago, spun off into the barriers on his first flying lap in Q1.
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (right) looks at his car after crashing during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix Q1 qualifying session at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on November 11, 2017
Hamilton was relegated to the back of the grid and then discovered he will start Sunday’s race from the pit lane after Mercedes decided that they would have to take his car out parc ferme to carry out repairs.
“I think the performance line, for me, in the last few races has been all the way going up,” added Bottas.
“I’m just feeling better and better with the car, we’ve just been working hard on the issues we’ve been having.
“We’ve been learning a lot, getting better, learning from the mistakes and the tricky sessions. The last few weekends have been a lot better in qualifying – there were just a couple of hundredths of a second between Lewis and me.
“It’s also been the case all weekend here so it was a shame he wasn’t in Q3, but I’m still very pleased with my performance.”
With Hamilton eliminated, Bottas rose to the challenge and outpaced the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel to grab his third pole position.
Bottas trails second placed Vettel by 15 points in the championship and hopes to overhaul him for runners-up spot with two races left.
It brought him a well-deserved moment of pleasure on a challenging day for champions Mercedes.
Hamilton, struggling with a cold, tweeted about the violent incident before his team made an official statement confirming it had taken place.
No-one was hurt, but shots were fired and valuables were stolen.
He urged teams and organisers to intensify security arrangements.
Then, on his first flying lap, he lost control of his car and spun into the barriers.
“It happened really quick,” said Hamilton. “It is what it is. Of course, it’s unfortunate…
“I tend to just look at it as – challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them makes life meaningful. I just need to take whatever bubble of negativity comes from that experience and move forwards and try and grow from it.
“It’s very unusual from me, but it shows we are all human and things happen. I will try to have as much fun as possible tomorrow (in the race). Years ago, I came from quite far behind and had a great race here.”
Hamilton may also have remembered that he battled to finish fifth with a passing move on the final corner of the final lap that brought him his first championship in 2008.