Bahrain Qualifying: Bottas beats Hamilton

[ngg_images source=”galleries” container_ids=”41″ display_type=”photocrati-nextgen_pro_slideshow” image_crop=”0″ image_pan=”1″ show_playback_controls=”1″ show_captions=”0″ caption_class=”caption_overlay_bottom” caption_height=”70″ aspect_ratio=”1.5″ width=”100″ width_unit=”%” transition=”fade” transition_speed=”1″ slideshow_speed=”5″ border_size=”0″ border_color=”#ffffff” ngg_triggers_display=”always” is_ecommerce_enabled=”0″ order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″]Valtteri Bottas powered to his first Formula 1 career pole position by stealing pole position from teammate Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes dominated qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Bottas kept his cool under the lights as Hamilton set the early pace in Q3 but on the final run the Finn, in his third race for the Silver Arrows, made no mistake he set the session best time of 1:28.769.

Hamilton was slow in the first sector, two tenths down on his teammate, and did not have the ammo to close the gap and ended the session 0.023 of a second shy of the top time.

Thus Bottas ended Hamilton’s bid for a seventh consecutive pole position start, and has closed the gap to the triple F1 World Champion… at least in qualifying.

No big shouts or whoops from the sport’s latest pole winner, instead a subdued, “Really happy, thanks guys. My first pole.”

Bottas added afterwards, “Obviously I am really happy. It’s my first pole in ,my career in my fifth season in F1 so it took a few years but hopefully it’s the first of many for me.”

“It’s credit to the team as we are both starting in the front row. The team did a really good job to focus on the evening conditions and its going to help us tomorrow.”

“It’s not an easy track to get right, it’s quite technical with a few different braking points. It’s easy to lock up or miss apex slightly but hopefully if I can concentrate it will be alright tomorrow. ”

“You can only enjoy this for a short period of time. There’s no point in dreaming. We will plan a good strategy but good place to start. Hopefully we can get that one-two,” added the Finn who will be targeting victory in his 80th grand prix start.

Hamilton commented,  “Big congratulations to Valtteri. He has been working so hard and today he was just quicker, he did the better job and hats off to him.”

“I was losing quite a bit of time through the first sectors, it was my weaker point but I will work on that tomorrow.”

“Overall a little down but a great battle and that is how close qualifying should always be. It forces us to be on the limit.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the gap between Mercedes and Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel simply had no answer. 

Q2 lap times suggested that Vettel would be in with a shout as he was a mere four hundredth of a second off Hamilton’s best at the time, But in Q3, Mercedes turned up the wick no doubt, and when Vettel finished the lap he found himself four tenths down on the winning time.

Mercedes were back on top by a bigger margin than most expected.

Vettel summed up, Overall I am happy with qualifying third and with how the car felt. We had some issues yesterday but we’ve tweaked the balance today and it felt much better.”

“I was happy with my first lap, looked up and saw they were both ahead and so was a bit annoyed. Then, maybe I tried a little too hard but had nothing to lose. Unfortunately it didn’t work. Hopefully we can do more tomorrow.”

Daniel Ricciardo dug deep to address the balance of power within the Red Bull team to qualify fourth, while his teammate Max Verstappen could only manage the sixth fastest time, a tenth down on Ricciardo.

The Red Bull pair were split on the timing screens by Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen, a quarter second down on Vettel’s best.

It was a big night for Renault as Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer made it through to Q3, with the German claiming seventh on the grid and the Briton set to start from tenth.

Williams driver Felipe Massa was fastest of the Mercedes customer brigade in eighth, with Romain Grosjean ninth in the Haas.

Qualifying Report

Pascal Wehrlein got things underway in Q1 with a time of 1:33.502, but that was soon eclipsed by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and then by Bottas, who elected to run with soft tyres as he set a P1 time of 1:31.041.

The Finn was then bounced out of P1 by Verstappen who set a time of 1:30.904 on supersoft tyres. Hamilton, though, was just about to cross the line and when he did so it was in a time of 1:30.814, set on soft tyres.

Both Ferrari drivers also set their opening times on soft tyres, with Vettel slotting into third behind Verstappen and Räikkönen taking seventh behind Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo.

As the clock wound down, Räikkönen elected to take to the track again, this time on supersoft tyres and despite an imperfect run that saw him go wide, breaking a piece of bodywork, the Finn climbed to third place behind Hamilton and Verstappen.

The remainder of the top placed drivers chose to stay in the garage and all eased through to Q2 with Ricciardo being the lowest place of those who stuck with their first laps in P10.

At the lower end of the order, Carlos Sainz was the first driver eliminated. The Spaniard’s session ended when he pulled over at Turn 14 and reported a loss of power.

That left him in P16 ahead of McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, Force India’s Sergio Pérez, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and the Haas of Magnussen.

As has become tradition, Mercedes were early runners in Q2 with Bottas taking the track, this time on supersofts, as did team-mate Hamilton.

The Finn set the early pace with a lap of 1:29.555 but Hamilton quickly went two hundredths of a second faster to take P1. Behind Bottas, Vettel slotted into P3 ahead of Räikkönen, Verstappen and Ricciardo.

In the drop zone ahead of the final Q2 runs were 11th placed Haas driver Romain Grosjean, followed by Force India’s Esteban Ocon, Wehrlein, Williams’ Lance Stroll and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.

Grosjean was the one to make the jump to Q3, with the Frenchman slotting into P9 as the final times were logged. Renault’s Jolyon Palmer also enjoyed a good session, making it through to Q3 for the first time in his F1 career in 10th place.

It meant that the man bumped out in P11 was Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat. The Russian might have edged Palmer but a mistake in the final corner saw the Russian run wide and the time lost cost him a Q3 berth.

Eliminated behind him were Stroll, Wehrlein, Ocon and Alonso. The McLaren driver opted to not run in Q2.

It was Hamilton who held sway after the first runs, the Briton posted a provisional pole time of 1:28.792, five hundredths of a second clear of Bottas. Vettel was third ahead of Räikkönen, Verstappen and Ricciardo.

With Hamilton having beaten Bottas in the previous two qualifying sessions, the form guide dictated that it would again be the Briton on pole, but Bottas wasn’t paying attention to form and the Finn managed to find a fraction more pace on his final run to edge the three-time champion by just two hundredths of a second to take his first career pole with a lap of 1:28.769.

Vettel took third for Ferrari 0.478 behind Bottas. Ricciardo, meanwhile, put in a superb final flyer to improve on his opening time by almost half a second.

That left him fourth ahead of Räikkönen and Verstappen, who did not improve on his opening time. Seventh place went to Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, with Williams’ Felipe Massa eighth ahead of Grosjean and Palmer.

Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir – Qualifying, Best Lap Times

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:31.041 1:29.555 1:28.769 12
2 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:30.814 1:29.535 1:28.792 13
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:31.037 1:29.596 1:29.247 12
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:31.667 1:30.497 1:29.545 12
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:30.988 1:29.843 1:29.567 16
6 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:30.904 1:30.307 1:29.687 12
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:31.057 1:30.169 1:29.842 15
8 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:31.373 1:30.677 1:30.074 12
9 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:31.691 1:30.857 1:30.763 16
10 30 Jolyon Palmer RENAULT 1:31.458 1:30.899 1:31.074 15
11 26 Daniil Kvyat TORO ROSSO 1:31.531 1:30.923   12
12 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:31.748 1:31.168   12
13 94 Pascal Wehrlein SAUBER FERRARI 1:31.995 1:31.414   15
14 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:31.774 1:31.684   12
15 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:32.054     8
16 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 1:32.118     5
17 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 1:32.313     8
18 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:32.318     7
19 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:32.543     9
20 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:32.900     8

Q1 107% time – 1:37.170