Bahrain Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas has taken his first pole position, after overcoming an initial deficit to Lewis Hamilton to snatch P1 from his teammate right at the end of the session.
With dusk falling over the Sakhir circuit, Mercedes & Ferrari headed out on the Soft tyres to try getting through Q1, with the majority of the rest of the field opting for the SuperSoft. Early times from the Sauber drivers, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, Williams’ Lance Stroll & Force India’s Esteban Ocon was quickly overhauled by Valtteri Bottas on said Soft tyres. The Finn put in a 1:31.041 to go fastest, while teammate Lewis Hamilton made an error and ditched his lap. Max Verstappen, on the SuperSofts, pipped Bottas’ time with a 1:30.904 before Hamilton took over at the top by 0.090 seconds on his second attempt. Neither Ferrari was able to match Hamilton’s Soft tyre time, with Vettel 0.2 down on Hamilton on his lap, and Raikkonen a further 0.6 back; however, both Scuderia men were comfortably within the top ten.
With four minutes remaining, the drop zone was made up of Lance Stroll, Kevin Magnussen, Marcus Ericsson, Esteban Ocon & Romain Grosjean, with both Haas drivers in particular struggling to control their cars on track. A late SuperSoft time from Grosjean put him into the top ten, indicating that the track was continuing to ramp up in grip. This led to Ferrari sending Raikkonen out for a SuperSoft lap. While he went fastest through the first two sectors of his lap, he hit traffic in the final sector and had to settle for P3 as the chequered flag was shown. Late improvements from Jolyon Palmer, Esteban Ocon, and Lance Stroll meant that they escaped the drop zone, but Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz wasn’t so fortunate as he ground to a halt in the final sector at the end of the session, triggering the yellow flags. He got a radioed apology “Sorry about that” from the team, as he had looked set for a top ten time, prompting the Spaniard to reply “Yeah, I don’t care.” His stoppage and resulting flags caught out Sergio Perez & Kevin Magnussen, preventing them from improving their times.
16. Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso
17. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren
18. Sergio Perez Force India
19. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
20. Kevin Magnussen Haas
SuperSofts were the name of the game right from the outset of Q2, and Valtteri Bottas was the first man to set a time – a 1:29.555, only to be immediately beaten by 0.020 seconds by Lewis Hamilton. Daniil Kvyat slotted into P3, 1.4 down on the Mercs with his first lap, before being beaten by 0.4 by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Max Verstappen then went P3, 0.2 clear of Ricciardo, before he himself was beaten by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. The German driver was just 0.061 down on Hamilton’s time, meaning the top three were very close together after their first runs.
Kimi Raikkonen also overhauled the Red Bulls, slotting into P4, while P7 was Felipe Massa, P8 Daniil Kvyat, P9 & P10 the Renaults of Hulkenberg & Palmer respectively.
With 6 minutes remaining, the drop zone was Grosjean, Ocon, Wehrlein, Alonso & Stroll, with no times set by the bottom two. It quickly became apparent that there was an issue with Alonso’s car, as the cameras showed him leaving the garage, putting on his hat, and walking up the pitlane. Lance Stroll put in a lap with a minute remaining, slotting into P10 before being immediately demoted again by Romain Grosjean. Jolyon Palmer also improved to go P9, pushing Hulkenberg into the bottom five, only for the German to put in a great lap to go P5 ahead of the Red Bulls on the same tyres. Both Renaults made it into Q3, with Kvyat, Stroll, Wehrlein, Ocon & Alonso all sidelined.
11. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
12. Lance Stroll Williams
13. Pascal Wehrlein Sauber
14. Esteban Ocon Force India
15. Fernando Alonso McLaren
The twelve minute final session began with both Mercedes heading straight out, while the Ferraris delayed about a minute before leaving their garages. Daniel Ricciardo was first to set a time, a 1:30.007, quickly beaten by Valtteri Bottas with a 1:28.844.
Max Verstappen then went P2, slotting in between Bottas and Ricciardo, before Hamilton went P1 with a time 0.052 clear of Bottas. Sebastian Vettel could only manage P3 with his first time, 0.5 down on Hamilton, with Raikkonen going P4 a further 0.4 back from his teammate. Halway through the session, this meant the order was Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Massa, with no times set by Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Palmer.
Grosjean’s first time put him P8, before the final runs began with two minutes to go. With Bottas just 0.052 down on Hamilton, all eyes were on him as he started his last run, seeming to drive easier on his outlap to try preserving his tyres for longer. This paid off, as he beat Hamilton’s time by 0.023 seconds to claim provisional pole. Hamilton, trying to respond, made an error on his final lap and fell short of Bottas by 0.2 seconds to claim P2. This meant that Bottas claimed his first ever F1 pole position, becoming the latest Finn to be an F1 polesitter.
Sebastian Vettel was best of the rest behind the Mercs, Kimi Raikkonen claiming P5 in the other Ferrari, with Daniel Ricciardo splitting the two red cars. P6 was Max Verstappen, P7 Nico Hulkenberg for Renault, P8 Felipe Massa, P9 Romain Grosjean, and P10 Jolyon Palmer.