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Bottas revels in first F1 pole, but not yet dreaming of victory in Bahrain

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Valtteri Bottas may have scorched to his first pole position in Formula 1 on Saturday in Bahrain, but the Mercedes driver is refusing to dream of a breakthrough victory in the race (Sunday, 10:30am ET, CNBC).

Bottas joined Mercedes from Williams over the winter and wasted little time in making an impression, scoring a podium on debut for the German marque in Australia.

After a disappointing display in China, Bottas bounced back in style on Saturday night at the Bahrain International Circuit, edging out Hamilton by 0.023 seconds to take his first pole position in F1.

“Yeah I’m obviously really happy. First pole in my career, my fifth season now in Formula 1 so it took a few races, but got it, and hopefully it’s the first of many,” Bottas said.

“I just want to say a big thanks to the team giving me this car to drive it on pole. We’re both starting on the front row, so I think we’ve made a really good job this weekend to focus on the evening conditions and really managed to get that lot of lap time in the slightly cooler conditions.

“Hopefully that going to help us tomorrow as well with the team.”

Bottas has not won a race since a British Formula 3 event at Donington Park back in 2011, and is refusing to get ahead of himself in Bahrain as he chases his breakthrough win.

“I and we as a team need to enjoy this for a very short period of time what we’ve done so far in the weekend. But the main thing is tomorrow,” Bottas stressed.

“There’s no point to start dreaming about anything. We have to look at whatever we can do tomorrow, work together as a team and plan a good strategy for the race tomorrow.

“For me it’s all about focusing on the race and getting the maximum out of it. Definitely a good place to start. I think as a team we can be really strong tomorrow and hopefully get that 1-2, first one of the year.”

The Bahrain Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 10:30am ET on Sunday.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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