Bottas takes Sakhir Grand Prix pole position, edging out Russell

Valtteri Bottas beat his new Mercedes teammate George Russell – who is subbing the sick Lewis Hamilton – to pole position in the Sakhir Grand Prix.

With last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix polesitter and race winner Lewis Hamilton absent after his positive COVID-19 test last week, the main focus of qualifying was whether Russell could beat Bottas to pole or suffer the first qualifying defeat to a teammate in his short Formula 1 career so far.

After the Mercedes duo had been the only drivers to get through Q2 on the medium tyres, which they will use at the start of Sunday’s race, the Black Arrows unusually opted to give them three runs in Q3.

Their first flying efforts were completed on used tyres, which meant they initially sat behind Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc on the leaderboard.

But Mercedes went again during the middle phase of the final segment of the session, with Bottas leading the way and blitzing to a 53.377 seconds, with Russell 0.142 seconds adrift.

On their final runs in the final minute, Bottas could not improve his time but held on to pole as Williams regular Russell could only close to 0.026 seconds in what was the first time he had competed in a Q3 session.

Verstappen, who went into qualifying with some hope having topped FP3 and had attempted to get through Q2 on the mediums before later going faster on the softs, finished third, with Leclerc hanging on to fourth despite getting out of his car after his run at the start of Q3 had finished.

The Ferrari driver only had one set of new softs available and therefore did not go back on to the track, but his 53.613 seconds was enough to leave ahead of Sergio Perez.

Daniil Kvyat took sixth for AlphaTauri, with Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll rounding out the top ten.

Esteban Ocon was shuffled down the order as the chequered flag was waved. The Renault driver was knocked him out in P11 at the end of Q2, with Alex Albon out in P12 – missing Q3 for the third time this season.

Sebastian Vettel had attempted to get through on the mediums during the early Q2 running, as did his teammate Charles Leclerc, but the four-time world champion could not improve enough after switching to the softs for the final runs.

That left Vettel P13, ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi, while Lando Norris was the lowest driver eliminated in Q2 as he finished P15.

The McLaren driver had run at the head of the pack for the final run, but abandoned his first attempt at last flying lap before going again in the dying seconds – a lap he also completed well off the pace, later saying on the team radio “sorry guys, we went too early”.

In Q1, Kevin Magnussen was knocked out in P16, with Albon just scrapping through ahead in P15 as Red Bull kept him in the pits for the final minutes of the opening segment.

The Williams pair of Nicholas Latifi and Jack Aitken came next, with Latifi ahead – but only after his new teammate had led the way in the first three runs in Q1 before the Canadian was able to steal ahead by nearly a tenth.

Formula 1’s most experienced driver, Kimi Raikkonen, ended up sandwiched between the two newest drivers – as the Alfa Romeo racer could only manage P19, with Romain Grosjean stand-in Pietro Fittipaldi bringing up the rear of the field in P20 for Haas.

So solid qualifying effort from George Russell to get P2. While Valtteri Bottas stepped up to the challenge by taking pole position. It’s going to be fascinating who will win the Sakhir Grand Prix as the outer Bahrain circuit has never been ran before and the lap time is under 60 seconds, meaning a fast and frantic race. May the best driver win.

Sakhir Grand Prix, qualifying positions:

1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53.377s
2 George Russell Mercedes 53.403s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 53.433s
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 53.613s
5 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 53.790s
6 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri-Honda 53.906s
7 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 53.957s
8 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 54.010s
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 54.154s
10 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 54.200s
11 Esteban Ocon Renault 53.995s
12 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 54.026s
13 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 54.175s
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 54.377s
15 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 54.693s
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 54.705s
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 54.796s
18 Jack Aitken Williams-Mercedes 54.892s
19 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 54.963s
20 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas-Ferrari 55.426s

5 thoughts to “Bottas takes Sakhir Grand Prix pole position, edging out Russell”

  1. Sakhir Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by

    Valtteri Bottas pipped his substitute Mercedes team mate George Russell to pole position for the Sakhir Grand Prix by just 0.026s, as the Silver Arrows set a scintillating pace in qualifying, with the top 10 separated by less than a second.

    It was Russell, standing in for Lewis Hamilton who tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of the weekend, who looked the quicker of the two cars on Friday, but Bottas found more pace on Saturday to set up a thrilling showdown in Bahrain.

    Bottas was quickest on his second run – first on soft tyres – with Russell slotting into second, but it was the Briton who was lighting up the timesheets on the final runs.

    Pole was within his grasp, but he ultimately missed out by a fraction of the second, and while P2 is his best-ever grid slot, defeat to Bottas means his run of 36 qualifying sessions having never been beaten by a team mate since his F1 debut is over.

    Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was their closest challenger, 0.030s further back, in what was an incredibly close session on F1’s shortest circuit, while Charles Leclerc did just one run – but it was good enough for a remarkable fourth for the fourth time this season.

    It’s déjà vu for Sergio Perez, who is running an old spec engine after suffering a failure that cost him a podium last time out in Bahrain, after he qualified fifth for the second successive week, one place ahead of AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat whose P6 is his best since the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

    Daniel Ricciardo was the best-placed Renault in seventh, just edging out McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and the Racing Point of Lance Stroll closing out the top 10.

    Q1 – Bottas goes quickest as Albon squeaks through

    Bottas led the away in the first part of qualifying, the Finn and his substitute team mate Russell using the medium compound tyres to ease through, as they were split by the Red Bull of Verstappen, who used just one set of softs.

    At the other end of the spectrum Albon just squeezed through in 15th on the bubble, with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen the first driver to get knocked out, seven tenths of a second quicker than team mate Pietro Fittipaldi, who is standing in for the injured Romain Grosjean this weekend.

    Nicholas Latifi was the leading Williams, but he was just one tenth of a second clear of Jack Aitken, standing in for Russell, who impressively outqualified the Alfa Romeo of 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen under the lights at Sakhir in his first ever F1 qualifying session.

    Knocked out: Magnussen, Latifi, Aitken, Raikkonen, Fittipaldi

    Q2 – Verstappen quickest as Albon and Norris get knocked out

    Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault sent their respective drivers out on the medium tyre, while Verstappen took that compound, too. Bottas and Russell went second and fourth, but it was super close at the sharp end, with just 0.053s separating the top five.

    Perez set the pace in the Racing Point, with Sainz third and Stroll fifth, but there was work to do for Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Sebastian Vettel, Lando Norris, who aborted his lap, and Antonio Giovinazzi who were in the drop zone with two minutes to go.

    Everyone headed out for one final run, with Verstappen – who like the Ferraris swapped to the softs – improving to go quickest. However, it wasn’t so good for his team mate Albon, the Thai driver struggling for pace as he ended up four tenths off the time of the Dutchman and out in 12th.

    Ocon missed out by a fraction in 11th, while Vettel couldn’t match his team mate Charles Leclerc and will start 13th, ahead of Giovinazzi. Norris was disappointed with himself on team radio, apologising for making a mistake on his second run, leaving him 15th, 11 places behind Sainz.

    Knocked out: Ocon, Albon, Vettel, Giovinazzi, Norris

    Q3 – Russell shines but just misses out on pole

    The fielded headed out on the soft tyre for the start of Q3, aside from Gasly who opted for a set of mediums, with Verstappen pulling out an absolute cracker to take provisional pole, followed by an arguably more impressive lap by Leclerc who went second, 0.022s off the pace.

    Mercedes’ Bottas and Russell ended up third and fifth respectively, however, their laps were completed on used sets of soft tyres, as the Silver Arrows had opted to go for three runs, given the short lap made such a strategy possible.

    With fresh tyres on his car, Bottas pumped in the quickest time so far – a 53.377s – with Russell clocking the fastest final sector as he slotted into second, 0.142s off the pace, while everyone else sat in the garage. Leclerc even climbed out of the car, his session complete after just one run.

    Russell got closer to Bottas on his final run, but it wasn’t quite enough. Second, though, makes him the 25th British driver to qualify on the front row for a Grand Prix, while Verstappen was a threat to Mercedes throughout, and ended up just 0.056s adrift.

    Sainz was the leading McLaren in eighth, the Spaniard starting seven places higher than he managed last time out in Bahrain after a brake issue, while Gasly was outqualified by Kvyat for only the third time in 2020 – and first time in seven races.

  2. George Russell was feeling “gutted” to miss out on getting Sakhir Grand Prix pole position. has the news story.

    George Russell felt “gutted” to narrowly miss out on his maiden Formula 1 pole position in qualifying for the Sakhir Grand Prix, finishing second behind Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

    In his first qualifying appearance for Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton’s stand-in, Russell managed to qualify second, finishing just 0.026 seconds off the pole time.

    It marked Russell’s first appearance in Q3, having only previously qualified as high as 11th at this year’s Styrian Grand Prix.

    Russell said the race weekend had been “incredibly intense” as he got up to speed in the Mercedes W11 car, admitting that it felt “really alien” in his first outings.

    “It is a really different way of driving, to be honest,” said Russell. “I’m trying to unlearn what I learned at Williams, and relearn how to drive this car fast.

    “I tried a lot of things in FP3 and it didn’t go well so, to be honest, I’d have been happy just to get through to Q3 after final practice.

    “But no, I’m really pleased. We got it pretty much all together on the final lap. Obviously gutted to miss out on pole by 20 milliseconds, but if you told me last week I’ll be qualifying P2 on the grid next week, I think I wouldn’t believe you.”

    It marked the first intra-team qualifying defeat of Russell’s career, who had previously always beaten Williams teammates Robert Kubica and Nicholas Latifi on Saturdays.

    But Russell was pleased by how close he got to Bottas, whose qualifying form has been impressive this year against pole record holder Hamilton.

    “Valtteri has pushed Lewis a huge amount in qualifying over the years, I think statistically there’s only been a tenth between them,” Russell said.

    “We all know how great Lewis so, just to be right behind Valtteri, coming in last minute, two days of prep I’m pleased, so let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

    Russell was conscious of the challenges he faced in the race on Sunday, having not started from so high up the grid or fought for a race win since F2 in 2018.

    “I’ve got nobody in front of me tomorrow, which I’ve not experienced for a long, long time,” Russell said.

    “It’s going to be really tricky. Qualifying is what I feel most comfortable with as it’s just balls out everything you’ve got.

    “Tomorrow, you need a bit more control, a bit more finesse, and I’m just haven’t had experience yet. I will give it my all and see what I can do.”

  3. Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas admitted this his Sakhir Grand Prix qualifying was “not my best”. Despite that, he is in front on George Russell and on pole position. has the details.

    Valtteri Bottas says his pole position performance at the Sakhir Grand Prix came despite him not delivering the best of qualifying sessions he has had in Formula 1.

    The Finn edged out new teammate George Russell by just 0.026 seconds on the Bahrain outer loop track to allow the Mercedes duo to lock out the front row of the grid. Both cars will also start on the medium tyre after using it to get out of Q2.

    On a weekend where Bottas has been under pressure not to be outperformed by Russell, who is standing in for Lewis Hamilton, he said he was happy he did enough after a scrappy run in Q3.

    “For sure it’s a different situation to have a new teammate but ultimately I just wanted to focus on my own doing, and not to waste energy anywhere else,” said Bottas. “I think I managed to do that.

    “I think strategy wise we are in a great place as a team and good to see George locking out the front row as well. It’s good to be on pole, I’m happy for that but not my best qualifying. I’m happy it was enough.”

    While the three long straights could offer plenty of overtaking opportunities in the race, Bottas is worried that cars may still not be able to follow each other closely enough.

    “It’s a bit of an unknown really how the racing is going to be,” he said. “It didn’t feel that easy to follow other cars, so I’m really pleased to be on pole and go from there.

    “Hopefully we’ll see a fun race. It feels a bit of a Mickey Mouse track, in a way, it’s quite bumpy and twisty. But let’s see tomorrow.”

    Bottas and Russell’s performance left Red Bull’s Max Verstappen third on the grid, with him starting on the soft compound.

    Although the Dutchman ended up just 0.056 seconds adrift of Bottas, he felt that shorter track reduced the significance of that.

    “From our side we had a good qualifying,” he said. “The lap itself as well, it’s a very short lap and not many corners.

    “I’m pleased to get near to be in P3. I tried to be as close as I can today. It was a bit closer than normal, but I think the layout explains that as well.

    “Of course we also tomorrow will be starting on different tyres, so this will be quite interesting in how it’s going to play out for us. Like I said before, we have nothing to lose so it’s better to have a bit of fun tomorrow and see what we can do.”

  4. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc explains decision to abandon Q3 early. has the full details.

    Charles Leclerc has explained his decision to get out of his car and end Formula 1 qualifying for the Sakhir Grand Prix early after opting for a single Q3 run.

    Leclerc had squeezed through to Q3 after seeing Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel drop out in Q2 at the Bahrain International Circuit on Saturday, and was not expected to mix with the front-runners.

    But a stunning lap saw Leclerc sit second after the first runs in Q3, outpacing both Mercedes drivers on the soft compound tyre and only trail the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.

    Leclerc expressed his satisfaction with the lap over team radio, and was spotted shortly afterwards getting out of his Ferrari SF1000 car despite having more than half of the session still to run.

    Although both Valtteri Bottas and George Russell were able to improve for Mercedes, Leclerc clung on to fourth place in the final classification despite his early run.

    The Ferrari driver revealed after qualifying that he could only do one run in Q3 as he had run out of fresh soft tyres, and that he wanted to get in the lap early to avoid hitting traffic later on.

    “I didn’t have a new set,” Leclerc said. “I took the decision to go early in the session instead of waiting to the end of the session for two reasons.

    “First, I was expecting the traffic to be a mess at the end of the session, and second, I just had the ideas clear, and I just wanted to get out on-track and do the job which we did.

    “To be honest, I don’t think I could have done anything better going later in the session, so I’m extremely happy about today.”

    Leclerc feared the lap had got away from him as early as Turn 1 after braking later than normal, but made use of knowledge picked up watching the onboard from Pierre Gasly’s car to string together the lap.

    “I don’t like to say it’s a perfect lap, you can always do something better,” Leclerc said.

    “But honestly, everything I wanted to do, I did it. I was scared because I broke very, very late into the first corner, but managed to make the corner anyway, and had a good exit too.

    “I think I got a snap in Turn 4, and then I thought oh my God, I don’t know if the tyres are going to last until the end of the lap.

    “I did such a huge step from FP3 to qualy in terms of driving, using a lot more of the track in entry on the kerb on the right [exiting Turn 8], looking at Pierre Gasly’s onboard actually, so thanks Pierre!

    “And the last corner, which I’ve been struggling with the whole qualy, this one I finally managed to do it well also in my last lap. I’m extremely happy.”

    But Leclerc downplayed Ferrari’s chances of staying so high up the order in the race, believing it will face a tougher evening.

    “A few times this year, we’ve been qualifying further ahead than probably what we should have,” Leclerc said.

    “This brings us a lot of hopes for Sunday, and then it’s frustrating in the car on Sunday, but let’s be realistic.

    “I think we need to learn from it. Tomorrow is going to be a difficult day. I don’t think we are going to be as competitive as today.

    “I don’t think we are the fourth-fastest car on-track. Let’s wait and see, but I’ll try to maximise what I have.”

  5. Mercedes driver George Russell still pressing the wrong buttons. has the news story.

    George Russell has revealed he accidentally pressed his Mercedes car’s neutral button during qualifying for the Sakhir Grand Prix, as he continues to adapt to his temporary Formula 1 environment.

    Russell qualified second behind Valtteri Bottas for the inaugural Sakhir race, which will take place on the ‘outer loop’ layout at the Bahrain International circuit, finishing just 0.026s from pole on his first outing for Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton’s stand-in.

    The decision had already been taken for Russell to wear race boots that are one size smaller than usual to make sure he fits into the cockpit of Hamilton’s W11, where he explained he has been making occasional errors activating systems on the steering wheel in practice and qualifying for this weekend’s race.

    When asked by if there were anything things he had had to unlearn from his experience for Williams in the first Bahrain race, Russell replied: “I guess arguably I probably would’ve been better off if I’d just came in with an open mind and not raced this circuit – or at least half of this circuit – last week.

    “Because I spent all last week breaking at ‘this point’, turning at ‘this point at Turn 1’ and ‘doing this, doing that’. And this car is just completely different.

    “Then all the procedures – learning new procedures, learning new buttons. FP1 was a mess – pressing the wrong buttons here and there.

    “Even in qualifying, I pressed neutral at one point instead of something else.”

    Russell explained that such a scenario occurred because had was in “such a routine down at Williams”, where he has raced since entering F1 as the reigning Formula 2 champion at the start of 2019.

    He added: “You don’t even think about these things and it just naturally happens.

    “[Mercedes has] been trying to modify as much as physically possible just to make things easier for me.

    “It’s been a lot of work and still takes a bit of time – it takes a couple of races just to understand all of that.”

    Russell then jokingly appealed to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff that more time aboard the W11 would rectify the situation, saying: “Toto, a few more races please and I’ll be there!”

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