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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.

F1: Valtteri Bottas urges Lewis Hamilton to clear up Mercedes future and sign

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MONACO (AP) — Valtteri Bottas is urging Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to sign a new contract, even though his own future is uncertain.

Bottas needs to convince Mercedes to give him a new deal for next year. Hamilton, meanwhile, is stalling on signing a new one even though an offer is in place. Hamilton was again asked about his contract situation on Wednesday, and maintains he’s in no hurry.

“There isn’t any sticking point. There just hasn’t been any rush,” Hamilton said. “There’s no discussion with anybody else, there’s no consideration for anybody else, it’s just (me) taking my time.”

But Bottas would like Hamilton’s future cleared up.

“For sure I would. First of all, I would like to stay here. That is my goal for the long term. It would be nice if Lewis wants to stay and finds an agreement,” Bottas said at the Mercedes motorhome. “I enjoy working with him, I enjoy the challenge he gives me. I enjoy the fact he’s four-time world champion and at the moment I’m none. It makes me try harder to be better.

“It wouldn’t change my mind that I want to stay here, but I think we work well together,” he added.

Last season was their first together. Bottas was drafted in from Williams as an emergency replacement after Nico Rosberg retired. He won three races but he stood out more as the ideal support driver as Hamilton reclaimed the F1 title.

Bottas understands Mercedes expects improvement.

“We had a chat before the season and naturally we expect performance gains compared to last year, being closer to Lewis,” Bottas said. “That’s what you need to do in the second season.”

However, Bottas says he has not been set a specific target in terms of points or where he finishes overall.

“There’s no magic number,” he said. “There’s no clause or anything, so it’s how the team feels I’m performing.”

Bottas finished third overall last year behind Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton.

He is in the same overall position – 20 points behind Vettel and 37 adrift of Hamilton – heading into this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The Finnish driver would be closer if not for a dramatic finish at the Azerbaijan GP last month. With victory seemingly guaranteed, he sustained a tire puncture and ended up with no points. He bounced back with a fine drive for second place in Spain two weeks ago.

“I feel like I’ve met my performance targets. Pace-wise I’m on the level I need, but result-wise I’m not happy,” Bottas said. “It’s been strange. But I know if I keep improving very good things will come.”

He has faced a considerable amount of criticism with observers questioning whether he can compete at the top level. Yet driving under the constant pressure of having a point to prove has also made him more resilient.

“For sure it makes you tougher and better,” he said. “From each difficult weekend, I feel I’ve been able to turn it (around).”