Sakhir Grand Prix: Valtteri Bottas just beats George Russell on pole for Mercedes One-Two

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Valtteri Bottas edged Mercedes new boy George Russell to pole position at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

The Finn was only 0.026 seconds faster than Russell, driving for the first time for Mercedes as a replacement for Lewis Hamilton, who has coronavirus.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was just 0.03 seconds behind Russell in third place.

And there was a superb performance from Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, fourth, less than 0.3 seconds from pole, with his teammate Sebastian Vettel 13th.

It was a very impressive performance from Russell, who set the tone for both practice sessions on Friday, but fell back a bit once the race started on Saturday.

Bottas was 0.212sec faster than Russell after the first points of qualifying, but the Finn failed to improve in his second run and Russell was able to run him close, but he missed the chance.

Russell dominated the first and second practice sessions on Friday

Russell said: “It has been incredibly intense, so much learning, getting used to the car, the seat, everything.

“At first it was really strange. A different way of driving, trying to unlearn what I learned at Williams and learn how to drive this car fast.

“I had a few mistakes in P3 and would have been happy to go into Q3 at this point, but I did everything in Q3.

“Valtteri has pushed Lewis incredibly close over the years and to be so close behind Valtteri with two days of preparation I’m delighted. “

Bottas said: “It’s a different situation to have a different teammate, but I just wanted to focus on what I was doing and not waste energy on something else.

“Strategically we’re in a good position and it’s good to see George in the front row. It’s not my best qualifying but I’m happy with pole. “

What a tour of Leclerc

Charles Leclerc
Leclerc said he was “extremely happy” to start fourth on the grid

Leclerc’s performance was undoubtedly the highlight of the qualification.

Ferrari qualified 11th and 12th at the Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend and didn’t have high expectations for this race on a new, shorter layout of the same track.

But Leclerc excelled, first by squeezing into the last part of qualifying, 0.3 seconds faster than Vettel at the time, then with an exceptional lap early in the session which placed him second behind Verstappen in the ‘time.

He then went on the radio and said to his team, “This lap was very good. “

That was all for Leclerc, as he had no new tires to run again, but although the track theoretically got faster over the course of a session, only the Mercedes drivers were able to go faster than him and be 0.236 seconds from pole in a Ferrari. will be one of the rounds of the season.

“I’m so happy because it was kind of a bet to go out early and never go back but for different reasons I wanted to go early. For the traffic, because I expected it to be a mess at the end of the race. , and also not to wait too long before leaving ”, declared Leclerc.

“I had a clear idea of ​​what I wanted to do in the car and managed to put everything on my knees so I’m extremely happy to start fourth. ”

How did the rest go?

Jack Aitken
Anglo-Korean driver Aitken replaces Russell at Williams this weekend

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez finished fifth, ahead of a strong performance from Alpha Tauri’s Daniil Kvyat, who beat Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo in sixth place.

McLaren’s Carlos Sainz took eighth place ahead of Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly and second Racing Point of Lance Stroll.

Red Bull’s Alex Albon was 12th, almost 0.4 seconds behind Verstappen in the second knockout session, a far from ideal performance for the Anglo-Thai driver who has two races to convince the team that ‘it should be maintained for next season.

Sainz’s McLaren team-mate Lando Norris finished 15th after a strange confusion that led him to miss a representative lap time in the second qualifying.

Briton Jack Aitken finished 18th on his debut for Williams, replacing Russell, just 0.096 seconds behind teammate Nicholas Latifi and ahead of Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

Brazilian Pietro Fittipaldi finished 20th and last replacing Romain Grosjean at Haas after the Frenchman crashed last Sunday.

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