Chinese GP: Bottas beats Hamilton to pole in F1’s 1000th race

Valtteri Bottas

VALTTERI BOTTAS NARROWLY DEFEATED TEAMMATE LEWIS HAMILTON TO HIS FIRST POLE POSITION OF THE SEASON IN THE CHINESE GRAND PRIX.

Bottas, who had topped Saturday morning’s Free Practice 3 session as well as Qualifying 1, held off his teammate by less than three hundredths of a second, despite a tense final run in Q3.

Sebastian Vettel finished third, narrowly ahead of his teammate Charles Leclerc, with Red Bull locking out the third row.

However, there was late drama as Max Verstappen, lining up for his flying lap, felt aggrieved that Vettel overtook him on the second-to-last corner. It resulted in the Dutchman, alongside his teammate Pierre Gasly and the Haas duo of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, not starting their flying laps as the chequered flag had already dropped.

This meant that the Renault’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg were able to get seventh and eighth position on the grid.

Elsewhere, there was disappointment for McLaren, whose 14th and 15th place finish was well below their recent good form and expectations going into the weekend.

Strategic games

However, it was all smiles for Bottas, who looks a completely different driver to the one we saw last season and, indeed, in the previous race.

Following a sensational victory in Australia, Bahrain looked rather ordinary for the Finn, who was quite fortunate to finish second after Vettel’s spin and Leclerc’s engine issues.

And the Championship leader, alongside his teammate Hamilton, the two Ferrari’s and Red Bull’s Verstappen, will start the race on the medium compound tyre.

The regulations state that drivers inside the top 10 must start the race on the tyres they set their fastest Q2 lap on, which could give them a tactical advantage heading into Sunday.

The medium tyres, whilst over a second a lap slower, and harder to get up to optimal temperature, will last much longer than the red-walled soft tyres, which Gasly, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg will start on.

However, it could leave Verstappen vulnerable to Gasly at the very start of the race. The Frenchman, despite being the best part of a second a lap behind his teammate for most of the session, made it through to Q3 for the first time in his short Red Bull career so far.

Elsewhere…

Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso, who look to have very good race pace, may well be in the best position in the midfield. Starting in 11th place, he’ll be the first driver to have free tyre choice (with the exception of the two Haas’ who didn’t set a Q3 time). That means he’ll be able to attack right from the off, and could well challenge the cars up ahead.

It was a slightly disappointing session for Racing Point, too. Lance Stroll has now been eliminated from each of the last seven qualifying sessions, finishing 16th. His teammate Sergio Perez finished 12th.

And Kimi Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo finished 13th place. Alfa driver Giuseppe Farina won the race from pole at the 1950 British Grand Prix, the first ever, and the team will be hoping that come Sunday, history will shine favourably on the team on Formula 1’s 1000th race.

Starting from the pit lane

Kvyat’s teammate Alexander Albon and Raikkonen’s counterpart Antonio Giovinazzi will both start from the pit lane. Albon lost control on the final corner in Practice 3, smashing his car badly. He’ll take part in the race, but wasn’t able to come out in Qualifying.

Giovinazzi also couldn’t make it out, with what appeared to be a mechanical issue.

Qualifying results/Provisional grid

  1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes): Q3 1:31.547
  2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes): +0.023s
  3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari): +0.301s
  4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari): +0.321s
  5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull): +0.542s
  6. Pierre Gasly (Red Bull): +1.383s
  7. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault): +1.411s
  8. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault): +1.415s
  9. Kevin Magnussen (Haas): No Time
  10. Romain Grosjean (Haas): No Time
  11. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso): Q2 1:33.236
  12. Sergio Perez (Racing Point): +0.063s
  13. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo): +0.183s
  14. Carlos Sainz (McLaren): +0.296s
  15. Lando Norris (McLaren): +0.731s
  16. Lance Stroll (Racing Point): Q1 1:34.292
  17. George Russell (Williams): +0.961s
  18. Robert Kubica (Williams): +0.989s
  19. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo): No Time
  20. Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso): Did Not Start