Bottas pips Russell to pole for the Sakhir Grand Prix, Verstappen third

Valtteri Bottas pipped temporary Mercedes teammate George Russell to pole position for the Sakhir Grand Prix, but only just – the Finn edging it by just 0.142s as Max Verstappen was his customary third on the grid.

It was still a superb effort from Russell, who only learned earlier in the week that he would replace the COVID-19 afflicted Lewis Hamilton in the team, yet still topped both sessions of free practice on Friday.

“It’s been incredibly intense, so much to learn,” said Russell after his qualifying effort. “Getting used to the car, the seat everything just so different. It felt really alien to begin with. It was just a really different way of driving, to be honest, trying to unlearn what I learned at Williams and re-learn how to drive this car fast. I tried a lot of things in FP3 and it didn’t go well at all, so I’d have been happy just to get through to Q3 after final practice!

“But really pleased. We pretty much got it all together in the final lap. Obviously gutted to miss out on pole by twenty milliseconds but if you told me last week I’d be qualifying P2 on the grid, I think I wouldn’t believe you. Valtteri has pushed Lewis a huge amount in qualifying over the years and statistically I think there’s only been a tenth between them and we all know how good Lewis is. So to be just behind Valtteri coming in with just two days of prep. I’m pleased. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

Charles Leclerc was a superb fourth fastest for Ferrari after a difficult season for the Scuderia, the Monegasque ahead of Daniil Kvyat, Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz as Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll rounded out the top ten.

But it was a disappointing qualifying for the second Red Bull of Alexander Albon, who missed out on Q3 and could only manage 12th on the grid.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.