Low-speed corner improvements aid Williams in Russian GP qualifying

Williams performance chief Rob Smedley believes car improvements in lower-speed corners contributed to the team's best Formula 1 qualifying performance of 2016

Low-speed corner improvements aid Williams in Russian GP qualifying

Valtteri Bottas will start Sunday's Russian Grand Prix second after setting the third-fastest time in qualifying, thanks to Sebastian Vettel's penalty, with team-mate Felipe Massa lining up fourth.

While the characteristics of this track were always expected to help Williams and its Mercedes power unit, Smedley stressed work the team has done to tackle a weakness in the kinds of slower corners that predominate at Sochi has paid off.

"There are very clear circuit sensitivities that help our car characteristics, so for example it's very high power-sensitivity here and it's also very high drag sensitivity and both of those things are going to help," said Smedley.

"But it doesn't come as any surprise that we are starting to go a little bit better in the lower-speed corners now.

"If you take sector three, apart from Mercedes, we have more or less matched Ferrari but for a tenth and we've matched Red Bull, who you would expect to be one of the best cars in that sector - again, we're just short of them by a tenth.

"So the work that we are trying to get through in terms of performance is obviously paying dividends and that's good.

"We've got some new bits on the car here, we're constantly trying to improve the through-corner balance here and that's going to help us on a qualifying lap but more importantly on the long runs and looking after the tyres."

Smedley is optimistic Williams could convert its strong grid positions into a challenge for a podium finish.

That would be a major boost after scoring only 39 points in the first three races of 2016, with a best finish of fifth.

"We definitely want to beat Red Bull because we have a quicker car," said Smedley.

"We definitely want to get in the mix with Ferrari and try and beat them.

"Mercedes, unfortunately, seem a bit far away at the minute but we'll get in there and at least try and get one of the cars on the podium - that's definitely the target."

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