Bottas ends Hamilton run for first career pole at Bahrain Grand Prix

SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) - Valtteri Bottas pipped his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton right at the end of qualifying on Saturday to take pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Hamilton held provisional pole by 0.052s after the first runs but Bottas put together a better second attempt to sneak ahead, with Hamilton then losing time in the middle sector and failing to improve on his final lap.

Vettel, joint leader of the world championship standings with Hamilton after two races with one win each, will start in third place with Red Bull's Australian Daniel Ricciardo fourth.

This could have had an influence on the margin between Verstappen, Hamilton and Vettel, as the first two set their times a good 10 minutes later in the session at a time when the sun is beginning to dip in the sky.

After the incredible Chinese Grand Prix, we wondered what most Ferrari fans would've wondered - why did Ferrari not ask Kimi Raikkonen to move over and let Sebastian Vettel pass?

A mistake on his first flying lap and a slow middle sector on his second left Sebastian Vettel 0.556s off the pace in third, while Bottas struggled to hook up all three sectors on his quick lap.

Outlining his desire that "nothing mechanical comes between our sheer battle in ability... an out and out fight through stubbornness, through mental stability, through composure... just outdriving the person on-track", nothing if not directly champions the perception that Rosberg inherited last year's crown on account of Hamilton's over embellished misfortune.

Romain Grosjean impressed for Haas en route to ninth place ahead of Hamilton, who will surely be aiming to respond to Vettel's pace in FP2 when conditions will be more representative of what drivers can expect in the race on Sunday. It was the sixth consecutive year in Bahrain that Mercedes won pole. We're at our best as a team, and I feel like I'm at my best.

The main surprise was the impressive Carlos Sainz, who drove brilliantly in China, but having gone fastest in sector one his vehicle stopped in the final part of the lap.

Moments after they had climbed out of their cars, Hamilton grabbed Bottas, hugged him and shook him firmly by the hand.

Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene said "we proved [in China] that we have a strong auto. I think the gaps will be even closer but we shall see", said Hamilton.

Although not as hot as Friday, drivers still had to deal with track temperatures of 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit) on the sweltering hot circuit located in the desert. Jenson Button, his replacement for Monte Carlo, is unlikely to be chomping at the bit to get back in the hapless McLaren.

  • Julie Sanders