Bottas Nips Russell For Sakhir GP Pole

Valtteri Bottas won the pole for the Sakhir Grand Prix Saturday in Bahrain. (LAT Images Photo)
Valtteri Bottas won the pole for the Sakhir Grand Prix Saturday in Bahrain. (LAT Images Photo)

SAKHIR, Bahrain – Valtteri Bottas edged his temporary Mercedes teammate George Russell to claim the pole for the Formula One Sakhir Grand Prix on Saturday at the Bahrain Int’l Circuit.

Bottas claimed the 16th pole of his Formula One career with a fast lap of 53.377 seconds around the Outer Track layout of the Bahrain Int’l Circuit. Russell, driving in place of Lewis Hamilton after the seven-time Formula One champion tested positive for COVID-19, qualified second with a fast lap of 53.403 seconds.

“It’s great to be on pole, I’m happy with that, but this wasn’t my best qualifying,” Bottas admitted. “My second run in Q3 was decent, but I think there was still a bit of time missing in turn seven and eight. I was the first car out on track on the final run, so I didn’t have a tow and ultimately couldn’t improve. It was fairly close in the end, so I’m pleased it was enough for pole position.

“It’s great to see George in P2 and that we managed to lock out the front row for the team. I’m not really surprised to see him up there, he kept improving throughout the weekend and particularly through qualifying. We’re starting on the Medium tyre tomorrow, which should put us in a good position in terms of strategy. Max is going to have an advantage for the race start itself with the softer tire, but we think for the race overall we’re on the better tyre. The track is quite bumpy and it’s actually fairly easy to follow other cars thanks to the tow, but we’re in the best possible position for tomorrow and are looking forward to a fun race.”

Russell took full advantage of his Mercedes debut by qualifying second, though he admitted he was a little disappointed to miss out on the pole by such a slim margin.

“Obviously, I’m a bit gutted to miss out on pole by 20 milliseconds, but if you’d told me last week that I’d be qualifying P2 on the grid, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Russell. “I’ve got nobody in front of me tomorrow, which I’ve not experienced for a long time. It’s going to be a really tricky race on such a short track layout, but we’re in a good position starting on the Mediums. I’ll give it my all and see what I can do.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified third, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc scoring an impressive fourth-place starting position with a fast lap in Q3. Sergio Perez qualified fifth for Racing Point.

Two drivers will make their Formula One debuts this weekend. Pietro Fittipaldi, making his debut in place of Romain Grosjean after Grosjean was injured in a fiery crash last weekend, qualified 20th for the Haas F1 Team. Jack Aitken, racing the car typically driven by Russell at Williams, qualified 18th for his maiden Formula One outing.