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Bottas is aiming high from an “unexpected” sixth place on the F1 grid in Mexico

The Alfa Romeo driver split the two works Ferraris in qualifying, ahead of the troubled Charles Leclerc for the third row spot on the grid.

A good result on Sunday would be very valuable in his team’s battle with Aston Martin for sixth place in the championship, which the Hinwil team leads by just three points.

Bottas showed good pace from the start of the Mexican weekend, finishing seventh in FP1 and eighth in FP3, the two sessions not compromised by the Pirelli 2023 tire tests.

Still, even he didn’t expect it to get any better when it counted in qualifying.

“Yes, it’s a good day then,” he said when asked by Autosport about the victory in Leclerc’s car.

“And it’s amazing. I mean, from the beginning of the weekend we saw that we seemed pretty strong and I felt comfortable.

“So we thought that with good qualities we could fight for seventh place, but to split the Ferrari is an added bonus.”

Bottas didn’t have a definitive explanation for why Alfa was so strong in Mexico City, especially with the factory Ferraris experiencing a loss of power at the high-altitude venue.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “We didn’t add anything from Austin to this track. But I think the layout – I was thinking about it before the weekend, that it might be good for our car.

“And it seems to be very good for our car. I think with all these slow turns, we seem pretty strong. Even over curbs through chicanes we seem to be fine and the car feels pretty good over curbs.

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42

Photo: Andy Hone / Images of motor sports

“So I think it’s just right for this track, and then with the starter set-up we did over the weekend, it’s just left us with a little bit of fine-tuning. So we really started the weekend off on the right foot with the setup and were able to build on that.”

Bottas admitted that he always performs well on the track: “It feels like it’s a normal track for me overall. I think I had a pole last year. Naturally, this suggests that this is one of those tracks that some drivers like.

“I like this one, smooth surfaces, low grip. So it’s definitely a slightly different way to ride, and I don’t mind that.”

Bottas believes he can hold onto the position on Sunday given there are no clearly faster cars behind him – apart from Leclerc’s Ferrari, which could be compromised by persistent engine problems.

Asked if he could finish sixth, he said: “I think yes, that is the aim. And it seems that from all the long runs this weekend and even from the Pirelli tests, we seem to be at a good midfield level in terms of race pace.

“So it’s nice to see. So hopefully we can more or less maintain the position. It’s important because it’s a good opportunity because Aston is a long way back now.”

Alfa Romeo team principal Fred Vassier said the car had been quick in recent races, even if the grid positions didn’t fully reflect that.

“I think it was already in the last two or three competitions,” said the Frenchman to Autosport

“But there is a margin between having the potential and being P6. And the last two or three events were wet sessions or we missed Q3 for nothing. I think the pace was OK in Austin and Suzuka.

“And I think we’ve been on it since the beginning of this weekend. From FP1 we do a good job and then you can adjust the situation.”

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