Valtteri Bottas says his minimum target is a podium finish in the British GP after a grid penalty left him starting ninth for Sunday’s race.
The Mercedes driver was handed a five-place demotion on Friday evening for an unscheduled gearbox change after the Finn he had topped both practice sessions.
In changeable Qualifying conditions on Saturday, Bottas could only manage the fourth-quickest time, behind team-mate Lewis Hamilton and the two Ferraris, which results in him starting ninth.
But with Mercedes looking comfortably the strongest car around Silverstone, Bottas – who trails championship leader Sebastian Vettel by 35 points – is optimistic of coming through the field.
“I’ve set a target minimum to finish on the podium. That is the approach for tomorrow,” Bottas said.
“I always feel positive about every opportunity ahead and I know that we have a very strong car here. It felt good in the long runs yesterday.
“Following the gearbox penalty, we decided to run the soft tyre in Q2 to start with then tomorrow, with all the other drivers on the supersofts, that can create some realistic opportunities to get close to the front and get some strong points for the team.”
Bottas was seven tenths down on Hamilton’s pole lap of 1:26.600 and admits the gap was far too big.
“I’m disappointed. With the good form yesterday and we definitely had the quickest car today, I was targeting nothing less than fighting for the pole,” he said.
“It’s far from ideal and the gap to the front was way too big. Lewis was really on it but I know myself the fact the difference should never be that big.
“I think he managed to get the tyres to work in these cooler conditions after the rain better.”
A lot of focus will be on the start on Sunday after Bottas made a lightning quick getaway a week ago in Austria on his way to victory.
He admitted on Thursday that he had gambled with when the lights would go out but will not be taking any risks this weekend – joking that he thinks officials have tried to make it harder in any case.
“I watched the Formula 2 start and the lights were really quick so I think they are going to make more variation between the lights now than before,” he said.
“I don’t want to gamble anything tomorrow. I want to be on it and have a good start and it will be important any position I get at the start because if I get stuck behind a slower car for a few laps I will lose many seconds in the race and I can’t afford that.
“I need to maximise any opportunity, especially if the weather is going to play a part because you need to stay in the race as other people will make mistakes.
“I need to calculate the risks because we have a strong car and it will only be a matter of time that I get those opportunities.”
Don’t miss the British GP live on Sky Sports F1 on Sunday – lights out for the race is at 1pm.