Hamilton Aces Bahrain Grand Prix Qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton won the pole for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday. (LAT Images photo)

SAKHIR, Bahrain – Lewis Hamilton cruised to his 98th career Formula One pole position during qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix Saturday at Bahrain Int’l Circuit.

Hamilton easily outdistanced his Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, for the top honors at the 3.363-mile, 15-turn course. His pole winning lap of 1:27.264 was nearly three tenths of a second faster than Bottas’ best time.

It was the record-extending 75th career front row sweep for Mercedes as a works team.

Saturday marked the latest notch in a growing list of achievements for Hamilton since clinching his record-tying seventh F-1 driving championship.

He hasn’t slowed down yet and doesn’t plan to, he admitted.

“I didn’t really celebrate (the title) that much. That’s draining,” Hamilton noted in parc ferme. “I was trying to make sure that I was ready for this (weekend) and just trying to keep my mind ready and eyes on the ball. This is the continuation of what we’ve been able to do together as a team and I continue to be amazed by it. These guys work so hard.

“No matter what has been thrown at us, they’ve risen to the occasion and I’m appreciative of their efforts,” he added. “To be able to come out here and put laps like that together, I came out and said, ‘Hey, let’s enjoy it and have fun,’ and we definitely enjoyed that.”

Bottas will start second for Sunday’s 57-lap race, looking to end Hamilton’s streak of three consecutive victories in Bahrain.

“I don’t really know where he outdid us, and that’s the problem,” Bottas admitted. “The lap felt good. To feel like you’re extracting everything out of the car and the lap time just isn’t there is confusing, but I can’t really say much in the moment. There were no mistakes that I felt and I thought my last lap was really good.

“It was just small things here and there; there was not one clear corner (where I felt like I lost time).”

The Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Alex Albon will share the second row of the grid, timing in third and fourth fastest, respectively. Racing Point’s Sergio Perez was fifth.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo (sixth) again outqualified teammate Esteban Ocon (seventh), with the AlphaTauri duo of Pierre Gasly (eighth) and Daniil Kvyat (10th) split by the ninth-quick McLaren of Lando Norris among the top-10 runners.

Both Ferrari drivers – Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc – failed to advance into Q3 and will start from 11th and 12th, respectively, on Sunday under the Bahrain floodlights.