Bahrain GP | Maiden pole for Bottas after edging Hamilton in qualifying

Valtteri Bottas claims his first pole at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton’s qualifying streak is over, as Valtteri Bottas takes pole in Sakhir for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Ending his team-mate’s run of six on the bounce and claim his maiden pole in Formula One.

Hamilton was yet to top a session in Bahrain going into qualifying for the 2017 race. With Sebastian Vettel topping both Friday sessions, before Verstappen came out of nowhere to beat the Briton to P1 come Saturday morning.

But while Verstappen put a Red Bull on top, their chances at pole were slim, with the car looking unthreatening to the Silver Arrows and Prancing Horse. Leaving the Maranello men chasing a fight with the Brackley outfit once again.

That fight, however, was not as fierce as the one inside Mercedes. As Bottas gained and gained on Hamilton to leave himself just five-hundredths off of pole with his provisional lap. And improving again as the chequered flag fell.

Q1

When the green light came on to join the thousands of bulbs illuminating the circuit, Sauber broke the silence as Wehlrein edged out onto the three miles of track. Joined by Stroll and Ericsson, with only the Canadian taking on mediums.

Qualifying today was the first in 2017 for Wehrlein. After the German sat out the opening two rounds as he continued his recovery from injuries sustained at the Race of Champions. And just seven days on from a Chinese Grand Prix he sat out, Pascal took an early edge over Ericsson – with the Swede four-tenths down come the line.

Pascal’s time was soon falling down the order, though. With Lance Stroll now strolling around on supersoft rubber able to move above the Sauber’s as the benchmark continued to drop.

Bahrain GP Friday 14/04/17

Pascal Wehrlein getting laps on the board in FP2 at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Photo credit: Sauber F1 Team.

Initially, that benchmark was dropped by Perez and Massa. But when the front-runners hit the leadberoad, it was Hamilton sitting on top. While the once-pace setting Perez fell to 14th, just two-tenths of a second outside the drop zone.

Bottas had been first to put a top corner at the top, as he completed a lap in 1 minute and 31 seconds despite being on the harder soft tyres. But before long, Verstappen was the first to break into the 1 minute 30s as he rolled over the line with supersoft tyres.

Even having the faster compound fitted, however, could not keep a ‘Bull on top as Hamilton edged ahead. Tightly nudging his name to the top as Vettel and Raikkonen came home two and eight-tenths back respectively.

The eight-tenths margin left Raikkonen down in seventh and expectedly safe. But that did not prevent Ferrari from sending the Finn back out with a set of supers, as Romain Grosjean moved from 20th place and into eighth.

With supersoft Pirelli tyres, Kimi set a new personal best in the first sector and followed up with a session best S2. But traffic in the form of Perez saw Raikkonen lose two-tenths in the final corner and cross the line just down on the Mercedes. Having also lost his monkey-seat as he flew away under harsh kerb vibrations.

While his monkey seat laid upon the track, the chequered flag began to wave for the first time. Being swiftly taken by Jolyon Palmer as he slid up the board and into 7th.

Fernando Alonso was next to improve as he climbed out to 11th. But with Kvyat and Ocon also finding time, the Spaniard was already slipping back down towards his team-mate as Vandoorne failed to improve and stayed 16th.

Marcus Ericsson could also find no more time as he found himself eliminated from quali. But his returning and new teammate in Pascal Wehrlein did get a Sauber into Q2 as he and Stroll stormed up to 12th and 14th.

Unfortunately for Toro Rosso – but lucky for McLaren – Carlos Sainz was forced to park his car towards the end of the session as he reported he had “no power”.

Sainz had been on a lap comfortably fast enough for a top 10 place, having set a purple first sector. But with ‘no power’ he was out in Q1 with Perez, leaving Alonso to scrape through as the sole remaining McLaren.

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Carlos Sainz during qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Photo credit: Toro Rosso.

Q2

For the second stage of qualifying, Mercedes were straight out of the pits – with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton both now running on supersoft tyres.

For Bottas, the Finn acting as the silence breaker set a string of purple times. With the first two sectors strong enough to fend off Hamilton, who bettered him in the last to take the top spot by just two-hundredths of a second.

For the FP3 pace-setting team, Red Bull would not have liked the look of the leaderboard at the start of Q2. Seeing Daniel Ricciardo finish his run a second off the pace and a tenth worse off than his team-mate.

Contrastingly, not even a tenth split Vettel from the Silver Arrows – as he crossed the line 6-hundredths down for third. Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, was two-tenths back as ex-Ferrari racer Fernando Alonso was climbing out of his McLaren without posting a time after a blown engine halted play.

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Fernando Alonso during qualifying for the 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix. Photo credit: McLaren.

Fellow former Ferrari pilot, Felipe Massa, was heading the chase of the rest come the end of the first runs. Leading Kvyat by two-tenths, while holding three to the Hulk.

The Hulk, though, smashed back with his next timed lap. Jumping up the order to slide his Renault into fifth place and ahead of both Red Bulls. Interestingly with a lap time forced out of him by his team-mate as Palmer improved to put Nico inside the drop zone.

Kvyat, Stroll, Wehrlein and Ocon’s best efforts, unfortunately, were not enough for a Q3 place. With Force India’s best-placed driver only qualifying in 14th place, while Toro Rosso missed the cut by just two-hundredths.

Q3

The top-10 shoot-out, the battle for pole, the duel in the desert to claim the fastest lap. Engaged by Daniel Ricciardo, but initially topped by Bottas.

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Daniel Ricciardo during qualifying for the 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix. Photo credit: Red Bull Racing.

Ricciardo had been first to break the brief silence and return to the track in search of speed. Pounding his ‘Bull around the track, but already losing half a second to Bottas in the short first sector alone. Another half second then faded away for the Australian, who crossed the line miles from provisional pole.

Bottas, on the other hand, looked like a flying Finn with a shot at pole. Dropping into the 1:28s for the first time, with a first sector again stronger than Hamilton.

Lewis, though, replied as the lap progressed. Nudging ahead in the middle sector and again going faster in the final sector. Crossing the line for provisional pole position by just five-hundredths of a second.

A slender margin the Ferrari’s could not get anywhere near. As Vettel came home half a second down with his first timed lap. While Raikkonen in the other Ferrari struggled with understeer, as he came home four tenths further back.

Second runs soon began to flow in Bahrain, with Valtteri again the first Mercedes to hit the track. But unlike their provisional laps, Hamilton was this time the faster Silver Arrow in the first sector as Bottas could not improve.

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Valtteri Bottas exiting the garage for qualifying at the 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix. Photo credit: Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Sector two again saw Bottas fail to improve on his initial time. Suggesting the Finn was pushing too early and killing his tyres before the final sector – Hamilton’s sector.

But for Hamilton, his sector two was poor. Losing a lot of time while Bottas gained in the last to take P1 and flip the margin. Leaving Hamilton chasing time as the track began to run out.

The lost time, though, was too much and despite improving his final sector time, he could do no more. Crossing the line two-tenths down to today’s flying Finn.

Like Hamilton, Vettel also had a messy lap and failed to make any serious improvements. While Ricciardo did exactly that, finding time by far to split the Ferrari’s for fourth and out-qualify Verstappen by two-tenths of a second.

Pos Driver Chassis Engine Time Gap
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 1’28.769
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 1’28.792 0.023
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 1’29.247 0.478
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG 1’29.545 0.776
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 1’29.567 0.798
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG 1’29.687 0.918
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault 1’29.842 1.073
8 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 1’30.074 1.305
9 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1’30.763 1.994
10 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault 1’31.074 2.305
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Renault 1’30.923 2.154
12 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1’31.168 2.399
13 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1’31.414 2.645
14 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1’31.684 2.915
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda
16 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso Renault 1’32.118 3.349
17 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 1’32.313 3.544
18 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1’32.318 3.549
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1’32.543 3.774
20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1’32.900 4.131