Valtteri Bottas edges Lewis Hamilton to take maiden F1 pole in Bahrain

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Valtteri Bottas edged out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in the final stage of qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday night to take his first pole position in Formula 1.

Bottas joined Mercedes at the start of the 2017 season following Nico Rosberg’s retirement, and has wasted little time on getting on-pace with Hamilton, the pair battling for pole on Saturday in Bahrain.

With Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel struggling for pace in Q3, Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Bottas were left to sweep to a front-row lock-out, duelling for pole with their final laps in the session.

Hamilton got the upper hand on the first run, finishing five-hundredths of a second faster than his teammate, leaving him with little breathing room and in need to a strong lap if he were to continue his pole streak.

Bottas improved his lap, turning in a time of 1:28.769 to go 0.023 seconds clear of Hamilton, who was unable to better his own time to hand his Finnish teammate a maiden F1 pole.

The result comes a little over four years since Bottas’ F1 debut with Williams in 2013, and makes him the fifth Finn to take pole position for a grand prix.

Vettel finished as the best of the rest in third place, while Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen struggled for pace once again, ending up fifth behind the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo. Max Verstappen followed in sixth, two places behind his teammate.

Renault enjoyed a strong qualifying as both Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer reached Q3, finishing seventh and 10th respectively. The pair were split by Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean, who will line up eighth and ninth respectively.

Daniil Kvyat fell just short of a place in Q3, paying the price for a mistake on his final qualifying lap as he finished just two-hundredths of a second off, qualifying P11. Williams’ Lance Stroll was unable to repeat his Q3 escapades from China as he too suffered a near miss, finishing 12th in Q2.

Pascal Wehrlein put in an impressive display in his first qualifying effort of the year, finishing 13th. The German returned to action in Bahrain after missing the opening two rounds of the season through injury, but looked to be back at full-tilt in qualifying. He will start alongside Esteban Ocon on Sunday, the Force India driver qualifying 14th.

Fernando Alonso’s difficult start to the season continued as he suffered a power unit issue in Q2, preventing him from setting a time to leave him 15th. However, he may drop down the grid due to a penalty should a part need to be changed on the Honda engine ahead of the race.

Carlos Sainz Jr’s hopes of a third straight Q3 appearance were dashed at the first hurdle in Bahrain, with a loss of power on his Toro Rosso car resigning him to 16th on the grid.

Stoffel Vandoorne was once again unable to match Alonso’s pace in the McLaren MCL32, finishing 17th ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez, who was a surprise drop-out. Marcus Ericsson and Kevin Magnussen will form an all-Scandanavian last row on Sunday, having qualified P19 and P2, the latter being caught out by the late yellow flags shown for Sainz.

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

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.