Zakhir, Bahrain – Mercedes driver Valteri Botas took a pole position over interim teammate George Russell for the Zakhir Grand Prix on Saturday.
It was the 16th pole in Botas ‘career and he was just .026 seconds ahead of Russell, driving for the first time in Mercedes’ absence in the absence of world champion Lewis Hamilton and .056 clear from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
“I’m very happy to be at the pole, but this is not my best performance in qualifying,” said Botas, who has had five poles this season, his third win.
But Russell, who had a smooth transition from Williams, pushed him hard.
Charles Leclerc, who led the F1 with seven pillars last season, drove superbly in this year’s unrivaled Ferrari and finished fourth behind Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.
Montreal’s Lance Stroll of Racing Point finished 10th and final, while Toronto’s Williams’ Nicholas Latifi and former champion Kimi Raikkonen were one of five drivers eliminated from the Q1, the first part of the qualification.
Four-time champion Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, McLaren’s Lando Norris, and Red Bull’s Alexander Alban all exited Q2, while Worstappen defended himself well for Q3.
Earlier, Verstappen raised the Red Bull by posting a quick time in the third and final practice, but did not have enough speed to keep Mercedes in his final lap in qualifying.
“I hope we have a little more fun tomorrow,” Verstappen said after losing his first pole this season. “All laptop times are very close.”
In P3, the late leader lifts the board late in the Verstappen session.21 seconds before, 36 Russell is clearer than Batas.
Verstappen won a race in the car slower than Mercedes this season.
Russell topped practice sessions on Friday after stepping in to replace world champion Lewis Hamilton, who was self-isolated for 10 days after being infected with the coronavirus earlier this week.
Hamilton sealed his record-breaking seventh F1 title in Turkey last month, where he expanded his record number of positions to 98 and broke the F1 record for GP victories.
Seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher has 91 wins compared to 91, while his son Mick is set to win the F2 title this weekend.
Drivers will again run at the Bahrain International Circuit in Zakhir, but instead on the 5.4 kilometers (3.3 miles) instead of 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) and on the short outer track with 87 laps over 54.
Pietro Fittipaldi joins Haas driver Romain Grosjean, who survived a fatal accident with minor burns and sprained ankle in Bahrain GP last Sunday. He is the grandson of two-time F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi and the fourth member of Fittipaldi to compete in the F1 race.
He starts his first F1 race from last place on the grid.
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