Valtteri Bottas has joked that he will be paying a visit to his former boss, Toto Wolff, after claiming a qualifying spot right behind Lewis Hamilton and ahead of his Mercedes replacement, George Russell.
Bottas proved one of the stars of qualifying in Bahrain, as he continued his unbroken streak of making it into Q3 – the last time he failed to reach Q3 was at the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, in the race immediately before joining the Mercedes team.
This is despite Bottas making the switch to Alfa Romeo, one of the slowest teams on the grid last year.
"It's pretty cool," Bottas beamed as he spoke to media, including RacingNews365.com, after qualifying.
Asked if he'd spoken to Wolff, who dropped Bottas in favour of Russell, the Finn joked: "Not yet, I haven't got my phone. But I'll go and see him!"
Bottas on the same row as Hamilton
With former teammate Hamilton in fifth, Bottas starts alongside him from sixth place after setting a Q3 time just three-tenths of a second slower – something that seemed unthinkable at the tail end of 2021.
"We're starting side-by-side; it's pretty cool," he commented.
"I saw him and we're both smiling – it should be fun!
"At the end of last year, if somebody told me that, in Bahrain, we're gonna be starting side-by-side with Lewis, I'd take it!
"But this is the beginning, it is the starting point for our journey, and we need to make sure that we're looking ahead and trying to move forward, rather than backward, so it's exciting."
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Bottas: We can fight almost every team on the grid
Bottas explained that Alfa Romeo began to get a sense that their C42 could be quite competitive during the pre-season tests, and that a top 10 qualifying position had been a realistic target going into the session.
"When preparing for today, we definitely thought the top 10 is possible," he said.
"But actually seeing, in reality, being P6, I think this is still a bit of a surprise.
"I think it's really important for the team because, obviously, Alfa has had a couple of tricky years, and actually seeing a bit of light, I think it's important to see what is possible."
When asked whether Alfa Romeo can realistically expect to replicate such a result over a Grand Prix distance, the veteran stated that he believes it's possible.
"I see no reason why not," he commented.
"The long runs felt good
balance-wise. The long runs haven't been any worse than the short runs ,
so I see no reason why we shouldn't be able to fight with any team, I
think, except Red Bull and Ferrari – they seem to be in their own league.
"But with the rest, for sure, we can fight."
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