Mercedes remaining grounded despite stellar Sprint Qualifying performance

Valtteri Bottas leads Max Verstappen

Mercedes is keeping its feet on the ground despite a strong showing during Sprint Qualifying for the Formula 1 Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

Valtteri Bottas converted a front row start into the lead of the 24-lap encounter, holding on to secure pole position for Sunday’s race.

Meanwhile, having been excluded from qualifying, Lewis Hamilton starred in a drive that saw him rise from last to fifth.

“Honestly, I had no idea what was possible,” Hamilton told Sky Sports.

“I didn’t set a limit or maximum.

“I think when I was at the back of the grid just before the start, before we pulled away for the formation lap, I think I might have been able to see like 10th.

“I was like, ‘Okay, that’s my goal, we’ve got to try and get as far up as possible’.

“But then all of a sudden I was now chipping away at it much faster, and I really used a lot of different things for fuel today.

“But you know, you can’t give up; you’ve got to keep pushing.”

It was a starring performance by the seven-time world champion, though team boss Toto Wolff wasn’t allowing his squad to get carried away.

“It’s a Saturday sprint race and certainly a really great drive, but it’s not the Grand Prix, it’s not for maximum points,” he said when asked by how Hamilton’s performance stacked up.

“We need to stay both feet on the ground and be humble for tomorrow’s race result and hope for the best.

“But the overtaking was really impressive, I enjoyed every second but in the same way I enjoyed Valtteri driving out there, the two of them gave us as a team a great afternoon.”

Bottas’ result owed much to the decision to start on the soft compound tyres, versus the mediums bolted on to Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

The red-walled tyres offered better purchase off the line, allowing the Finn to take the lead into the first corner, which he then held to the flag.

“Everything really went as we planned,” Bottas said.

“We opted to start with the soft tyre because we thought the best chance to get the lead today was the race start, and even with a bit of a risk that [the] end of the race could be a bit tricky.

“But it worked perfectly,” he added.

“It wasn’t easy till the end, definitely the tyres started to be pretty finished, but just tried to avoid mistakes and try to keep the focus.”

The Finn held off a surging Verstappen for the final 10 laps of the affair, heading him to the flag by 1.1s.

It was a result that also moved Mercedes another point clear in the constructors’ championship, the gap to Red Bull now two points with four grands prix remaining.

The Sao Paulo Grand Prix gets underway at 04:00 AEDT on Monday morning.

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