Valtteri Bottas took his fourth pole position of the year by edging new Mercedes team-mate George Russell by just 0.026s in qualifying for the Sakhir Grand Prix as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took third just three hundredths of a second further back.
In Q1 Verstappen was one of the last to take to the track but when he did the Dutchman quickly jumped to the top of the timesheet with a lap of 0:54.037. That remained the benchmark for the bulk of the session, but late in the session Bottas bolted on a set of soft tires and on the4 red-banded rubber he was able to claim top spot a little over a tenth ahead of the Red Bull driver.
Behind Russell was third ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris who had to make a late charge after having an early run deleted for infringing track limits. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly took fifth place ahead of Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.
There was a slightly nervous end to the segment for second Red Bull driver Alex Albon, however. Banking on the safety of his early time of 54.620 his team kept him the garage on the final run and as rivals’ final times came in the Thai driver fell down the order. Fortunately his fall halted at P15 and he went through to Q2 eight hundredths of a second ahead of the first driver eliminated, Kevin Magnussen.
Alongside the Haas driver, Williams pair Nicholas Latifi and Jack Aitken, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen and Haas’ Pietro Fittipaldi.
In the second segment the Mercedes drivers, both Red Bulls and the Ferrari drivers went out on medium tires but while their initial times looked good, the gaps were too tight and in the closing stages every car went out on track again to try to ensure progress.
After moving to soft tires, Verstappen jumped to the top of table with a lap of 53.647, a time that would hold good until the checkered flag. Behind him Pérez took second place ahead of Bottas, Sainz and Russell. Leclerc went through in sixth place ahead of Kvyat, Ricciardo and Gasly.
Out, though, went Renault’s Esteban Ocon and two hundredths of a second behind him, Alex Albon. The Thai driver had a poor second sector on his final flying lap and as the lap ebbed away he could find no improvement in the final stretch and so was eliminated in P12 ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi and the McLaren of Lando Norris.
In Q3 Verstappen initially claimed provisional pole with a lap of 53.591 with Leclerc putting in a superb lap to take a provisional front row spot. Both Mercedes drivers had run worn softs tires on their opening run however and a second run on new rubber pushed both Bottas and Russell ahead of Verstappen. In the end Bottas’ second run time of 53.377 was good enough to take pole but while the Finn couldn’t improve on his third run it briefly looked like Verstappen might challenge it. The Dutchman set the fastest third sector but it wasn’t enough as Russell also improved and in the end Max took third place 0.026s behind Russell and just 0.056s off pole.
Behind the top three Leclerc’s time ended up being good enough for fourth and the Ferrari driver will start ahead of Pérez, Kvyat, Ricciardo, Sainz, Gasly and Stroll.
2020 FIA Formula 1 Sakhir Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53.377 9 238.956
2 George Russell Mercedes 53.403 0.026 9 238.840
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 53.433 0.056 6 238.706
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 53.613 0.236 3 237.904
5 Sergio Pérez Racing Point/Mercedes 53.790 0.413 6 237.122
6 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri/Honda 53.906 0.529 5 236.611
7 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 53.957 0.580 6 236.388
8 Carlos Sainz McLaren/Renault 54.010 0.633 6 236.156
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 54.154 0.777 9 235.528
10 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 54.200 0.823 6 235.328
11 Esteban Ocon Renault 53.995 0.348 6 236.221
12 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 54.026 0.379 6 236.086
13 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 54.175 0.528 8 235.437
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 54.377 0.730 6 234.562
15 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 54.693 1.046 6 233.207
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 54.705 0.801 9 233.156
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 54.796 0.892 11 232.768
18 Jack Aitken Williams/Mercedes 54.892 0.988 9 232.361
19 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 54.963 1.059 11 232.061
20 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas/Ferrari 55.426 1.522 11 230.123