Valtteri Bottas secured his first career pole position in Formula One with a record-breaking lap at the Bahrain Grand Prix to end Lewis Hamilton’s streak at the head of the grid as Mercedes dominated qualifying.
Hamilton was aiming for a seventh straight pole, going back to last season, and was seemingly in prime position having clocked a time of one minute, 28.792 seconds.
However, Bottas – who replaced world champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes in the close-season – produced the goods on his final flying lap, holding it back for the final sector to produce a time of one minute, 28.769 secs – a record at the Bahrain International Circuit
That left the flying Finn on provisional pole with Hamilton still to finish his final circuit, but the Briton made an error late on his lap and could not recover the time, bringing an end to his run of poles.
The result represents the perfect response for Bottas, who spun behind the safety car in China last week in a costly mistake that saw him finish the race down in sixth.
PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION: END OF QUALIFYING
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 15, 2017
Ferrari had been tipped by many to be the team to beat in the desert this weekend and, when Sebastian Vettel went fastest in FP1 on Friday, those predictions appeared accurate.
However, they seemingly have it all to do on race day, with Vettel – who co-leads the drivers’ standings with Hamilton – almost half a second down on the Mercedes and Kimi Raikkonen only in fifth behind the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.
Max Verstappen had gone quickest in a blustery FP3 earlier on Saturday, but the Red Bull driver had to settle for sixth on the grid.
Renault saw both drivers make the top-10 shoot-out, with Nico Hulkenberg starting seventh and Jolyon Palmer 10th behind Felipe Massa (Williams) and Romain Grosjean (Haas).
1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes): 1:28.769secs
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes): 1:28.792s
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari): 1:29.247s
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull): 1:29.545s
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari): 1:29.567s
6. Max Verstappen (Red Bull): 1:29.687s
7. Nico Hulkenburg (Renault): 1:29.842s
8. Felipe Massa (Williams): 1:30.074s
9. Romain Grosjean (Haas): 1:30.763s
10. Jolyon Palmer (Renault): 1:31.074s