Sakhir GP: Bottas beats Russell to pole by 0.026s

Valtteri Bottas beat George Russell in qualifying for the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain, but only by 0.026s as Mercedes' temporary Formula 1 line-up battled for pole.

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With Bahrain GP polesitter and race winner Lewis Hamilton absent after his positive COVID-19 test last week, the story of qualifying was whether Russell could beat Bottas to pole or suffer the first qualifying defeat to a teammate in his short F1 career so far.

After the duo had been the only drivers to get through Q2 on the medium tyres, which they will use at the start of Sunday's race, Mercedes unusually opted to give them three runs in Q3.

Their first flying efforts were completed on used tyres, which meant they initially sat behind Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc on the leaderboard.

But the Black Arrows went again during the middle phase of the final segment of the session, with Bottas leading the way and blitzing to a 53.377s, with Russell 0.142s adrift.

On their final runs in the final minute, Bottas could not improve his time but held on to pole as Williams regular Russell could only close to 0.026s in what was the first time he had competed in a Q3 session.

Verstappen, who went into qualifying with some hope having topped FP3 and had attempted to get through Q2 on the mediums before later going faster on the softs, finished third, with Leclerc hanging on to fourth despite getting out of his car after his run at the start of Q3 had finished.

The Ferrari driver only had one set of new softs available and therefore did not go back on to the track, but his 53.613s was enough to leave ahead of Sergio Perez.

Daniil Kvyat took sixth for AlphaTauri, with Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll rounding out the top 10.

Esteban Ocon was shuffled out as a flurry of fast times once he had passed the chequered flag knocked him out in 11th at the end of Q2, with Alex Albon out in 12th – missing Q3 for the third time in 2020.

Sebastian Vettel had attempted to get through on the mediums during the early Q2 running, as did his teammate Charles Leclerc, but the four time world champion could not improve enough after switching to the softs for the final runs.

That left Vettel P13, ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi, while Lando Norris was the lowest driver eliminated in Q2 as he finished 15th.

The McLaren driver had run at the head of the pack for the final run, but abandoned his first attempt at last flying lap before going again in the dying seconds – a lap he also completed well off the pace, later saying on the team radio "sorry guys, we went too early".

In Q1, Kevin Magnussen was knocked out in P16, with Albon just scrapping through ahead in 15th as Red Bull kept him in the pits for the final minutes of the opening segment.

The Williams pair of Nicholas Latifi and Jack Aitken came next, with Latifi ahead – but only after his new teammate had led the way in the first three runs in Q1 before the Canadian was able to steal ahead by nearly a tenth.

F1's most experienced driver, Kimi Raikkonen, ended up sandwiched between F1's two newest drivers – as the Alfa Romeo racer could only manage P19, with Romain Grosjean stand-in Pietro Fittipaldi bringing up the rear of the field in 20th for Haas.

Cla Driver Chassis Time Gap
1 Finland Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53.377  
2 United Kingdom George Russell Mercedes 53.403 0.026
3 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull 53.433 0.056
4 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari 53.613 0.236
5 Mexico Sergio Perez Racing Point 53.790 0.413
6 Russian Federation Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri 53.906 0.529
7 Australia Daniel Ricciardo Renault 53.957 0.580
8 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren 54.010 0.633
9 France Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 54.154 0.777
10 Canada Lance Stroll Racing Point 54.200 0.823
11 France Esteban Ocon Renault 53.995 0.618
12 Thailand Alex Albon Red Bull 54.026 0.649
13 Germany Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 54.175 0.798
14 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 54.377 1.000
15 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren 54.693 1.316
16 Denmark Kevin Magnussen Haas 54.705 1.328
17 Canada Nicholas Latifi Williams 54.796 1.419
18 United Kingdom Jack Aitken Williams 54.892 1.515
19 Finland Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 54.963 1.586
20 Brazil Pietro Fittipaldi Haas 55.426 2.049
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