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.
“Yeah, it’s a pretty good day then,” he said when asked by Motorsport.com about beating Leclerc’s works 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.”
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42
Photo: Andy Hone / Images of motor sports
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.
“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 Ferrariwhich can be compromised by constant engine problems.
Asked if he could finish sixth, he said: “I think so, that’s the goal. And it looks like from all the long runs this weekend and even from the Pirelli tests, it looks like we’re at the good end of the midfield. 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.”
Given how important the points are to his team, Bottas agreed he could not be too aggressive on the first lap.
“Yes, it’s a calculated risk. I’ve had a lot of bad laps this year. So even for my confidence it would be good to have a good start and the first lap, so I think the aim is to at least try to keep the position. If you can benefit, obviously yes, but without much risk.”
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’s already been there in the last two or three races,” the Frenchman told Motorsport.com.
“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.”
Wasser said the result was a boost for the Swiss team just days after the Audi 2026 deal was announced: “It’s encouraging for people at home and on the track. This is a mega-big push.
“They worked hard. We still have 250 fewer people than our competitors, which means that when we have to release updates, they push like hell, and I’m more than happy with everything.”