Bottas Takes Maiden Pole in Bahrain

Valterri Bottas celbrates his maiden pole Saturday night in Bahrain. It was the first pole for a Finnish driver since 2008. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

SAKIR, Bahrain—After competing in formula one for the last five seasons, Valterri Bottas came to the AMG Mercedes team this year, hoping that taking over for former world champion Nico Rosberg, would give him satisfaction. On Saturday evening at the Bahrain International Circuit, the Finnish driver got his wish—and his maiden pole of his career by posting a circuit record breaking 1:28:769, edging teammate Lewis Hamilton and breaking the Briton’s five pole streak in qualifying for Sundays Grand Prix of Bahrain. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished in third.

For Bottas, it is the fifth time that a driver from his country has taken pole for a grand prix race, the first since 2008.

“I am very, very happy, and it is the first pole in my career in formula one.” Commented Bottas afterwards. “It took a few races, but I got it and it is hopefully the first of many. To drive this car on pole and both of us are starting on the front row. I am very grateful for the team. It is quite technical to get everything right.”

Hamilton lost his chance of continuing his pole position streak by losing time in the middle section of the track in the final period. This gave Bottas, who had been very close to Hamilton all evening, the chance to come out on top, by maintaining his current lap time. But while the AMG Mercedes drivers were dominating, their rivals, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing, were never in the fight. Vettel himself was four tenths off the pole time, but his team knows that the tables for race day could be different as the prancing horse is more improved over race pace.

McLaren-Honda continued with problems as Stoffel Vandoorne never got out of the first qualifying session and his teammate, Fernando Alonso might be happier by talking about his upcoming Indy 500 race as the Spaniard could come no closer than 15th, as well as encountering an engine change for race day. This situation will certainly put Alonso near the back of the grid.

The American Haas F1 Team improved a little for this race, as Romain Grosjean, who placed fifth in this race last year, continued his hopes for another successful finish by taking ninth. But his Danish teammate, Kevin Magnussen, was not so successful, finished in 20th and last positon.

Daniel Ricciardo just edged out Kimi Raikkonen to take fourth on the grid, while Max Verstappen put himself in a good race position, finishing sixth. Renault for the first time in two years had both teammates finish qualifying in the top ten as Nico Hulkenberg took seventh and his teammate Jolyon Palmer finished in tenth. Veteran Felipe Massa ended up in eighth.

Bottas savored the moment afterwards, but realized that thinking about what he could do in Sunday’s race should be thought of during the race.

“I think that the first thing I need to do is don’t think about that, just think that this is what I have done and I should not start dreaming about this.” Bottas continued. “We need to be a team and think about race strategy and plan the race tomorrow and get the maximum out of it. It is a good place to start, and as a team, we can be really strong tomorrow and be 1-2 on the podium.”

Mark Gero

A 16 year veteran of writing formula one racing weekend race reports, features and team launches, Mark has worked for such companies as all-sports, e-sports, The Munich Eye newspaper in Germany, and Autoweek. A former member for this site four years ago, Mark now is a contributor for R.I.S.

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Volume 2017, Issue 4, Posted 2:52 PM, 04.15.2017