It's a front-row lockout for Mercedes at the Sakhir Grand Prix on Sunday as Valtteri Bottas secured the pole position followed by his temporary teammate George Russell starting second. Bottas qualified with a time of 53.377s, beating Russell by a gap of just 0.026s. The Williams driver is filling in this weekend for 2020 world champion Lewis Hamilton, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Max Verstappen starts in the second row and closely matched the pace of the Mercedes cars, with a gap of just 0.056s behind the pole-sitter. The top ten drivers were separated by less than a second.
The Mercedes drivers' first efforts at setting a lap time were on used tyres, which meant both Verstappen and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc topped the timesheets. However, the W10s went out again on the new medium tyres in the middle segment of the session and set the timesheets on fire. Bottas was the first to set the fastest lap time, which incidentally was 30s faster than that of Hamilton on the same circuit last week. Meanwhile, Russell was 0.142s adrift from Bottas.
With the final runs left, Russell managed to improve his time and closed the gap to 0.026s, in what was his first time competing in a Q3 session. Verstappen secured third running on softs, while Leclerc secured fourth and starts from the second row. The driver had only one set of new softs and did not go out again to set a new lap time after the initial run at the start of the Q3.
That was enough though to stay ahead of Racing Point's Sergio Perez, who starts at P5, followed by AlphaTauri's Daniil Kvyat. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault starts from P7, ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr in the McLaren. Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri starts from P9, ahead of Lance Stroll in the Racing Point. Esteban Ocon in the Renault starts at P11, ahead of Alex Albon in the second Red Bull car, followed by Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari at P13. The driver attempted to get through Q2 on mediums but could not improve his time on softs in the final runs.
Starting behind Vettel will be Antonio Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo, Lando Norris in the McLaren and Kevin Magnussen in the Haas car. Williams drivers' Nicholas Latifi and Jack Aitken, filling in for Russell, start at P16 and P17 respectively. Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen and Pietro Fittipaldi (filling in for Romain Grosjean) at Haas complete the grid for the Sakhir GP.