Valtteri Bottas has narrowly avoided an embarrassing qualifying defeat to his new teammate George Russell, claiming pole for the Sakhir Grand Prix by just 0.026s.
The duo were the only ones to get through Q2 on the medium compound of tyre, which they must now at the start of tomorrow’s race, setting up an intriguing battle with Max Verstappen who finished only 0.056s down on Bottas.
Navigating traffic throughout the 3.5km circuit which boasts an average speed of 233km/hr was going to be crucial for securing a good grid position.
Mercedes took this into account and were the only ones to have three runs in Q3, with Bottas’ pole position time coming on the lap where only himself and Russell were on track.
Bottas was unable to improve on his time on his final flying lap. In contrast, a purple last sector by Russell had the Mercedes rookie come within two-thousandths of a potential maiden pole position.
Verstappen improved on his time but it was not enough to alter the positions of the top-three and he will start from the second row of the grid.
Charles Leclerc hung on to fourth despite only setting one lap at the start of the session, believing he wouldn’t be able to improve on his time and opting to save a set of soft tyres for the race.
The ever-consistent Sergio Perez will start fifth, the same position he scored a week earlier for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Daniil Kvyat edged home Daniel Ricciardo for sixth, the latter the sole Q3 representative for Renault after the French marque were unable to translate their Free Practice pace into a strong qualifying performance.
Carlos Sainz will join the Australian racer on the fourth row of the grid after running into a profusion of traffic on his best lap.
Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll were ninth and tenth to round out the Q3 runners.
The sister Renault of Esteban Ocon fronted the list of Q2 eliminations after a scruffy final effort left him 11th.
Alexander Albon suffered another painful Saturday to start 12th. It was the third time this season he has been knocked out before the Q3 shootout, and he ended up less than a tenth ahead of Sebastian Vettel.
The four-time world champion was fortunate to have even made the start of qualifying after his Ferrari team were compelled to make a sudden engine change following a power unit failure in FP3.
A frustrated Lando Norris will start a lowly 15th after a messy session. He complained about being released too early by his McLaren team for his final run, meaning he wasn’t able to maximise the best of the track conditions.
The bottom five was made up of the usual suspects.
Kevin Magnussen will start from 16th, edging out newly-paired Williams duo of Nicholas Latifi and Jack Aitken.
Kimi Raikkonen looked to have the pace to challenge for a spot in the second segment of qualifying, but he made a mistake in the middle sector of his best lap.
The Finn will share the last row on the grid with Pietro Fittipaldi who is making his grand prix debut this weekend.
|Carlos Sainz Jr.