Sakhir Grand Prix qualifying report & highlights: Russell misses Mercedes first pole by 0.02 seconds as Bottas imprints his authority on Sakhir

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Valtteri Bottas propelled replacement Mercedes teammate George Russell to pole position at the Sakhir Grand Prix by just 0.026 seconds, as the Silver Arrows set a scintillating pace in qualifying, with the top 10 separated by less than a second.

It was Russell, replacing Lewis Hamilton who tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of the weekend, who appeared the faster of the two cars on Friday, but Bottas found more pace on Saturday to set up an exciting showdown in Bahrain .

Bottas was the fastest in his second run – first on soft tires – with Russell in second, but it was the Briton who lit up the timesheets on the final runs.

Pole was within his grasp, but he ultimately missed a fraction of a second, and although P2 was his best place on the grid, the loss to Bottas meant his streak of 36 qualifying sessions was never beaten by a teammate. since his F1. the beginnings are over.

1


Valtteri
Bottas
BOT
Mercedes
53,377
2


George
Russell
RUS
Mercedes
53,403
3


Max
Verstappen
WATCH
Red Bull Racing
53,433
4


Charles
Leclerc
LEC
Ferrari
53,613
5


Sergio
Perez
THROUGH
Race point
53 790

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was their closest challenger, 0.030 seconds away, in what was an incredibly tight session at F1’s shortest circuit, while Charles Leclerc only made one race – but it was ‘was good enough for a remarkable fourth for the fourth time this season.

It’s déjà vu for Sergio Perez, who runs an old engine after suffering a breakdown that cost him a podium last time in Bahrain, after qualifying fifth for the second week in a row, one place ahead of Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri whose P6 is his best since the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo was the best-placed Renault in seventh place, just ahead of Carlos Sainz of McLaren, with Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri and Racing Point of Lance Stroll closing the top 10.

Second on the grid is Russell’s best grid location, but the loss to Bottas ends his run of consistently overqualifying a teammate at every F1 Grand Prix.

Q1 – Bottas goes the fastest while Albon squeals

Bottas led away in the first part of qualifying, with the Finn and his replacement teammate Russell using the medium compound tires to ease the passage as they were separated by Red Bull Verstappen, who only used a single set of flexible tires.

At the other end of the spectrum, Albon has just passed 15th on the bubble, with Kevin Magnussen’s Haas the first driver to be eliminated, seven tenths of a second faster than his teammate Pietro Fittipaldi, who replaces the injured. Romain Grosjean this weekend.

Nicholas Latifi was the Williams leader, but he was only a tenth of a second ahead of Jack Aitken, replacing Russell, who impressively overqualified the Alfa Romeo of 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen under the lights at Sakhir during his very first F1 qualifying session. .

KO: Magnussen, Latifi, Aitken, Raikkonen, Fittipaldi

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix qualifying: Norris eviscerated after the exit of T2

Q2 – Verstappen is the fastest as Albon and Norris are eliminated

Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault sent their respective drivers on the medium tire, while Verstappen took this compound as well. Bottas and Russell were second and fourth, but it was very tight at the pointy end, with just 0.053s separating the top five.

Perez set the tone at Racing Point, with Sainz third and Stroll fifth, but there was work to be done for Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Sebastian Vettel, Lando Norris, who interrupted his lap, and Antonio Giovinazzi who was in the drop zone with two minutes left.

Everyone left for a final round, with Verstappen – who, like Ferraris, switched to soft drinks – improving to go faster. However, it wasn’t so good for teammate Albon, with the Thai rider battling for pace as he finished four tenths off the Dutchman’s time and placed 12th.

Ocon missed a fraction in 11th, while Vettel could not match his teammate Charles Leclerc and will start 13th, ahead of Giovinazzi. Norris was disappointed in himself on team radio, apologizing for making a mistake on his second run, leaving him 15th, 11 places behind Sainz.

KO: Ocon, Albon, Vettel, Giovinazzi, Norris


Sainz qualified seven places higher than he did last time in Bahrain

Q3 – Russell shines but narrowly misses pole

The riders started on the soft tire for the start of Q3, apart from Gasly who went for a midrange set, with Verstappen shooting an absolute cracker to take the provisional pole, followed by an arguably more impressive lap from Leclerc who passed second, 0.022 seconds late.

Mercedes’ Bottas and Russell were third and fifth respectively, but their laps were run on sets of used softer tires, as the Silver Arrows opted to do three races, given that the short lap made such a strategy possible.

With new tires on his car, Bottas pumped in the fastest time to date – 53.377s – with Russell scoring the fastest final sector as he placed second, 0.142s behind, while the entire world was sitting in the garage. Leclerc even got out of the car, his session over after just one race.

Russell got closer to Bottas on his final run, but it wasn’t quite enough. The second, however, made him the 25th British driver to qualify on the front row for a Grand Prix, while Verstappen was a threat to Mercedes throughout, and finished adrift at just 0.056s.

Sainz was the lead McLaren in eighth, with the Spaniard starting seven places higher than he last managed in Bahrain after a brake problem, while Gasly was only overqualified by Kvyat for the third time in 2020 – and the first time in seven races.

WATCH: Bottas beats Russell on pole position

The key quote

“It’s a different situation to have a new teammate but everyone [preparation] started focusing on my own actions and not wasting energy anywhere else, so I think I managed to do that, but I think in terms of strategy we are in a great position as that team and thrilled to see George lock the front row down well, ”Bottas said. “It’s good to be on pole, I’m happy with it but it’s not my best qualifying, but I’m happy that it was enough.

And after?

The Sakhir Grand Prix will start in 2010 local time, 1710 UTC. With the world champion Hamilton absent and a new short and sharp circuit to start, we have the recipe for an absolute thriller. Bottas is the best placed, but Russell has been extraordinary so far, having swapped his Williams for a Mercedes, and is in great shape not only for his first F1 podium (and points), but maybe even a first. victory.

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