Valtteri Bottas secured his first ever pole position in Formula One with a solid lap that pipped Lewis Hamilton by 0.023s, confirming a very strong looking Mercedes front-row for the race.
After securing his first pole, Bottas said,
“It took me a few races to get pole but hopefully it’s the first of many. Thanks to the team for giving me this great car.”
– Valtteri Bottas
Story of Quali
In Q1, Esteban Ocon struggled to match Sergio Perez’ Force India with a DRS-related issue preventing te Frenchman from exploiting the full potential of his car. After the first Q1 laps, both Haas cars were in the drop zone, as were Lance Stroll, Marcus Ericsson and Ocon.
After a terrible lock-up that flat-spotted Romain Grosjean’s first set of supersofts, the Haas driver was able to improve with a 1.31.7s, dragging him up to 8th from 20th. The lap put Jolyon Palmer into the drop zone.
The final flurry in Q1 churned out some unlikely results. On a lap that Palmer needed to get right, he managed to jump up to 8th and get into Q2 alongside teammate Nico Hulkenberg. Stoffel Vandoorne was unable to get through, with Alonso once again outdriving the MCL32 and getting into Q2.
Carlos Sainz’ unlucky weekend continues, he set the faster first sector on his final flyer, but the STR12 broke down in sector three, condemning the Spaniard to a long race. The yellow flag that was shown as a result of the parked Toro Rosso prevented Sergio Perez from completing a solid final flyer, the Mexican a disappointing 18th with Marcus Ericsson and Kevin Magnussen for company on the back row.
In Q2, the true gap between Red Bull and the two teams ahead was realised as Mercedes and Ferrari turned their engines up, a gap of eight-tenths distancing Verstappen and Ricciardo from the front-two rows.
In the fight for survival, the Renault drivers were again under pressure, with Hulkenberg and Palmer needing fast laps at the end to get both Renault’s into Q3 for the first time since 2015. Palmer was able to put in his quickest lap and go 9th, and Hulkenberg stole the show again with 5th.
Daniil Kvyat missed out on a real opportunity to qualify within the top ten, but the Russian took too much speed into the final corner and went wide on a lap that would have got him through. Lance Stroll was lucky to get out after a swift recovery from his mechanics in changing some damaged flooring, the young Canadian starts the Bahrain Grand Prix in 12th, an ideal place to fight for points from.
Pascal Wehrlein’s first qualifying session of 2017 was impressive for Sauber. He starts his first Grand Prix for the Swiss team in 13th place, just ahead of Esteban Ocon, who confirms a poor session for Force India.
Fernando Alonso wasn’t even able to get into his McLaren in Q2, a terminal issue preventing the Spaniard from dreaming of Q3. It’s some early Indycar simulator work for Alonso…
In Q3, Valtteri Bottas secured his first ever pole position from his teammate Lewis Hamilton in a fractional battle, the margin a tiny 0.023s. It sets up another potential duel in the desert between Silver Arrows. Sebastian Vettel was half-a-second down on the Mercedes duo, suggesting that even with a slightly better race-pace than Mercedes, it might be a tall order for Ferrari to challenge in the Grand Prix.
Daniel Ricciardo was able to out-qualify Kimi Raikkonen for 4th, so the Aussie could find himself clinging to a podium if he can jump Vettel on the start. Max Verstappen lines up 6th, behind Raikkonen.
Nico Hulkenberg once again put in a performance that should encourage Renault to start thinking about points, he was “best of the rest” with 7th. Felipe Massa had another consistent session and lines up 8th, with Grosjean 9th and Jolyon Palmer securing his first appearance in Q3 with 10th.
Qualifying has set up a race in which Mercedes can be winners on two fronts. Race victory should await Bottas or Hamilton tomorrow, that battle will definitely be the headline fight. But Red Bull could help Mercedes too. If they can get both RB13’s ahead of the struggling Kimi Raikkonen, then they will take points from Ferrari in the closely contested Constructors fight.
Despite the best efforts of Nico Hulkenberg, the Williams cars look a bit better, and are directly behind both Renault cars at the start. Over the race (as long as it doesn’t rain), the FW40 is a more solid package than the RS17, so that fight will be one to watch tomorrow too.
Alonso finds himself in the thick of the midfield again in 15th, he’ll be one to watch tomorrow and could easily find himself in the top ten after the opening laps. 7 Predictions for tomorrow’s race: