MANAMA (Reuters) - Words failed Valtteri Bottas on Saturday after the unflappable Finn bounced back from a disappointing Chinese Grand Prix by taking the first pole position of his Formula One career in Bahrain.
Last Sunday the Mercedes driver was downcast after spinning behind the safety car in a race won by triple champion team mate Lewis Hamilton, the 54th victory for the Briton from his 63rd pole.
Hamilton had been gunning for a seventh pole in a row on Saturday but, under the Sakhir floodlights, Bottas produced the perfect riposte by beating him to it by a mere 0.023 of a second.
After 80 attempts, and in his fifth season, he had joined famous Finnish pole sitters like Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen.
Team boss Toto Wolff was delighted with the turnaround, even if he would have been equally happy with another Hamilton pole, and recalled his conversation with Bottas after the Finn arrived in Bahrain from Shanghai.
“He said Sunday was pretty rough, Monday morning was also not good but Monday afternoon was better already.
“I think it’s something that a great driver needs to have, to analyse your mistakes and then overcome them and move on,” he added.
“He had a difficult Sunday...but he didn’t think too much, came to Bahrain and put it on pole. I think this is another step in his development, which is not finished yet, towards great achievement.”
Formula One’s Finns have rarely been guilty of emotional overload, with Ferrari’s 2007 world champion and ‘Iceman’ Raikkonen the most famously tight-lipped of a far from loquacious bunch, but Bottas was discernibly happy.
A rare whoop, and a raised fist punching the air, betrayed what was going on under the helmet as Bottas took the first pole by a Finnish driver since McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen in 2008.
“For a moment there you actually showed some emotion. Well done,” said Tony Ross, the race engineer who had confused Bottas with now-retired predecessor and champion Nico Rosberg over the team radio in China.
Bottas’s mind appeared to go blank when laughingly asked to supply a Finnish word for ‘exciting’ or ‘excited’ by Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and he kept his feet firmly planted on the ground.
“For sure if you’ve had a bit of a struggle in the last race it’s always nice to start the weekend in a good way but anyway tomorrow is the day that then matters, but it’s good.
“I definitely feel now much more comfortable in the car...the more laps, the more time you spend with a car and driving it, you get to be more at one with the car.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis