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.