Valtteri Bottas was relieved to have rediscovered his form after eliminating memories of a disastrous event at the last race in Baku to qualify third for the French Grand Prix.
Bottas was left baffled by the lack of pace in his Mercedes around the streets of the Azeri capital two weeks ago and his performance there ramped up the already spinning rumour mill, bringing back suggestions he could be replaced mid-season.
He set a time just over a tenth slower than second-placed team-mate Lewis Hamilton at Paul Ricard and said: “It’s been a strong weekend and a lot better than a couple of weeks ago, so at least the pace has been there.
“Q3 felt good so I didn’t feel like there was that much more lap time to be got. The first lap in Q3 I had a bit of a snap in turn two so that was not a good lap but the second lap was good so we need to find out where we lost some speed.”
Bottas disappointed with third after strong start to weekend
Despite the satisfaction of recovering his pace, Bottas was still left disappointed that Max Verstappen claimed pole for Red Bull on a track that has previously suited the Mercedes cars.
The disappointment would surely be added by the pace displayed in practice on Friday, where Bottas topped one session and was just 0.008secs behind Verstappen in the second.
The Finn added: “We have seen it is going to be close with Red Bull, as it was today.
"[We] can't be too happy being third because it has been a strong weekend otherwise but Red Bull was faster today.”