Valtteri Bottas beat his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton and seal maiden Formula 1 career pole at Bahrain Grand Prix. Hamilton’s title rival Sebastian Vettel lines up in third with the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo fourth on the grid.
Triple time world champion Hamilton was fastest in Q1, Q2 and then apparently in the shoot-out for pole, only for the Finn to nick it in the closing seconds with his best lap of one minute and 28.769 seconds.
Hamilton grabbed Bottas from behind before congratulating him in parc ferme. It was not a reaction he would normally have reserved for his last Mercedes team-mate.
Kimi Raikkonen, under pressure from Ferrari following two disappointing rounds, is fifth with Max Verstappen sixth.
Nico Hulkenberg seventh on a good day for Renault, who had Britain’s Jolyon Palmer in 10th place.
German driver Pascal Wehrlein also made a strong return after a back injury kept him out of the first two races, qualifying 13th for Sauber while Swedish team mate Marcus Ericsson was only 19th.
Hamilton, who made a mistake on his flying lap, was magnanimous in defeat, “Firstly, a big congratulations to Valtteri. He has been working so hard, gelled so well with the team and today he was just quicker, he did the better job and hats off to him,” said Hamilton.
“That’s how close I think qualifying should always be.”
“For sure, it feels good,” said Bottas, the first Finnish driver to secure a pole position since Hamilton’s then-team mate Heikki Kovalainen for McLaren at the 2008 British Grand Prix, 168 races ago.
“It’s my first pole in my career in my fifth season in F1 so it took a few years but hopefully it’s the first of many for me,” he added.
Pole sitter the Finn, who joined reigning constructors’ champions Mercedes from Williams in January as a replacement for retired world champion Nico Rosberg.
“I’m really happy,” said Bottas, who qualified third for both of his opening races in Mercedes silver. “It’s the first pole of my career in my fifth season. It took a few races but I’ve got it and hopefully it’s the first of many.
“Big thanks to the team for giving me this car. We’re both starting on the front row and we have done a good job to focus on the evening conditions.
“It’s not an easy track to get everything right. It’s quite technical and it’s easy to have a lock up. It was a good enough lap for pole today.”
Congratulations @ValtteriBottas – first pole ever. Flat out!
— Mika Häkkinen (@F1MikaHakkinen) April 15, 2017