Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix poleman Valtteri Bottas says Mercedes is “in our own league”, while team-mate Lewis Hamilton admits the W11’s pace was a surprise.
Bottas trailed Hamilton throughout practice, but beat him to pole at the Red Bull Ring on Saturday by just 0.012 seconds despite running into the gravel at Turn 4 on his final effort.
The closest challenger to the Mercedes drivers, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, was over half a second behind.
“It feels really good,” said Bottas of his pole.
“I’ve missed these feelings – the qualifying ‘shakes’, it’s something special when you’ve pushed the car to the limit, and I’ve obviously been preparing this for a long time.
“It feels so good. You can’t say more than that, and our team, amazing job, we seem to be in our own league.
“It’s very impressive to see, it’s only the first qualifying of the season, but I’m so impressed, so thanks everyone in the team, all the factories.
“It’s a truly amazing car to drive, but tomorrow is what matters.”
Hamilton expressed surprise at the gap over the field he and Bottas had, but says “it’s a true showing of the great work” ongoing at Mercedes, and puts the team’s constant gains down to its “open-minded” approach.
“We definitely didn’t expect to have that gap,” the reigning world champion said.
“But it’s a true showing of the great work that everyone back on the factory continues to do.
“Valtteri did a better job with his lap, and it’s amazing. I don’t know what to say really, we did not expect to have that sort of gap.
“Definitely quick enough to be fighting for the lead, but there were different showings of the other teams, sometimes quick, sometimes a little bit further behind.
“That’s the true showing of our car, and we plan on trying to improve that.
“I think we show year-on-year that we are the best team, that’s because we are open-minded, we’re current with the times, the guys that I work with are never too stubborn to admit that they might be wrong, and we’re constantly always learning from each other.
“We’re always pushing the boundaries. There’s not really any politics within the team, so it’s a united team that we push together.
“That’s why every year we come back, because that’s not necessarily always the same in teams.
Regarding his own performance, he added: “The car was great, I just didn’t manage to put the greatest lap together, so work for myself to do. I’ll just go back to the drawing board and work harder.
“I came round Turn 4 I think, and there as a big puff of dust.
“I didn’t know where the car was or anything like that, but I managed to see that Valtteri was just about to come back on the track.
“Fortunately it didn’t really affect the lap, and he kept his position.”