What a night! Valtteri Bottas celebrated the first pole position of his Formula One career after a scorcher of a lap at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Valtteri: I’m really happy with my first Formula One pole
The Finn edged out Lewis Hamilton by a mere 0.023s to claim top spot on tomorrow’s grid after an intense Qualifying battle between the teammates under the floodlights.
“I’m really happy with my first Formula One pole,” said Valtteri. “It’s my fifth season in the sport now, so it took a few races. But we got it and hopefully it is the first of many. It feels good.
“I didn’t realise it’d been nearly 10 years since a Finn was last on pole. I’m very proud as always to drive for Finland and represent my country.
“It’s not an easy track to get everything right. It’s quite a technical and there are a few tricky corners. But I I’ve been getting more and more comfortable with the car and managed to get the lap together. Thankfully it was good enough for pole.
“I just want to say a big thanks to the team for giving me this car. It’s great that we’re both starting from the front row. We’ve done a really good job this weekend to focus on the evening conditions and really maximise the lap time in the car.
Lewis: Hats off to him on his first pole
“We’ll enjoy this for a short period of time – but the main focus is the race tomorrow. There is no point to start dreaming just yet. It’s all about getting the maximum out of the race. As a team we can be really strong tomorrow.”
Lewis congratulated his team-mate on breaking his F1 pole duck – and with the Ferraris also right in the mix, the triple World Champion is expecting a great battle come race day.
“A big congratulations to Valtteri,” he said. “He’s been working so hard and he’s gelled so well with the team. Today he was just quicker than me and did the better job, so hats off to him on his first pole.
“My lap felt great but it was so close out there. I was losing quite a bit of time through the first sector, which is unusual as it’s usually a very strong sector for me. Overall it was a great battle and that’s exactly how close qualifying should always be. It forces us to be on the absolute limit.
“I’m happy with the job I did and it’s great for the team to lockout our first front row. Today we had a bit of a margin over the Ferraris but generally in race trim they seem to be a bit quicker, so we expect them to be closer tomorrow. It’s definitely going to be tight. Hopefully we’ll have a great battle.”
Toto: That’s a fantastic result
Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, Toto Wolff, heaped praise on Valtteri on a memorable evening for the Finn.
“That’s a fantastic result in a really close qualifying session with some great competition between the drivers,” he said. “I’m very pleased for Valtteri. It was a tough race last weekend in China but he has been chipping away at his qualifying performances and he did a great job this evening, finding the last few hundredths on his second run in Q3.
“As for Lewis, he couldn’t quite improve on that final run – but for the first time this season we have both cars on the front row of the grid. The gap to Ferrari looks pretty good here but their drivers were complaining of understeer, so perhaps they have gone with more of a race set-up in mind. And then there’s Red Bull. You always have to have them on the radar because they have all the resources they need to be fighting at the front.
“Tomorrow’s race will be all about surviving on the tyres and making the right decisions in terms of strategy. We’re starting from the best possible positions and we now need to get the heads down and work hard to convert it into podium finishes tomorrow.”
James: It’s going to be super tight
Technical Director James Allison was equally delighted with the team’s first front-row lockout – but isn’t discounting the threat of the Ferraris on Sunday.
“A first pole for Valtteri and it feels excellent,” he said. “It’s lovely to have a front-row lockout and it’s a great reward to Valtteri for three excellent laps in qualifying today. We are all really happy.
“The gap to Ferrari is a little larger than in the first two races but rather than being surprised we’re just grateful for that small bit of breathing space. It will be different again tomorrow when everyone has their cars full of fuel – then we are sure to have our work cut out.
“We’re expecting the weather to change a fair bit for tomorrow, both windier and cooler. But it will be normal fare for Bahrain – tough on the brakes, tough on the drivers. It’ll be a long, hard toil, but hopefully we’ll end up at the front. It’s going to be super tight.”
The action continues on Sunday evening in Sakhir, as the Silver Arrows line up on the front row of the grid for the 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix. Are we in for another epic Desert Duel? You won’t want to miss it…