Lewis Hamilton conceded that his new Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas “did the better job” in qualifying after the Finn claimed his first Formula 1 pole position at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Hamilton had been the quickest driver in the field in the opening two phases of qualifying and posted a competitive benchmark time of 1:28.792 on his first Q3 run.
Bottas managed to lap within five-hundredths of a second of Hamilton’s time before improving on his second run to post a 1:28.769 – Hamilton was unable to go quicker on his second run and will start alongside the former Williams driver.
Hamilton was quick to praise Bottas’ efforts and appeared genuinely delighted he had scored the first pole position of his F1 career – his demeanor was a stark contrast to his interactions with former teammate Nico Rosberg.
“Firstly, a big congratulations to Valtteri,” Hamilton said after qualifying.
“He’s been working so hard, he’s gelled so well with the team, and today he was just quicker than me, he did the better job, so hats off to him.”
The three-time World Champion identified that he was losing out to Bottas through the first sector of the Sakhir circuit.
“My first lap felt great, I looked up [at the television] and the time was so close, so I thought, ‘Wow that was a great lap, he [Bottas] did a great job’,” he said.
“I was losing quite a bit of time through the first sector … Valtteri found some great pace through the first sector; the second and third sectors ended up being quite good, but overall I was a little bit down [on him].
“It was a great battle, that’s how close quali should always be, it forces us to be on the limit. I’m generally happy with the job I did and it’s great for the team to be one-two.”
Hamilton and Bottas finished almost half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to give Mercedes its fiftieth one-two result in qualifying.
For Bottas, who became the 98th driver and the fifth from Finland to claim a Formula 1 pole position, he hopes that his breakthrough will open the floodgates to more great qualifying performances.
“I’m obviously really happy,” he said.
“It’s my first pole in my career, and my fifth season now in Formula 1, so it took a few races but we got it, and hopefully it’s the first of many.
“We’ve made a really good job this weekend to focus on the evening conditions and get a lot of lap time out of this car in slightly cooler conditions. Hopefully that’s going to help us [in the race] tomorrow.
“We need to look at everything we can, work as a team and plan a good strategy for the race tomorrow. It’s a good place to start and I think as a team we can be really strong tomorrow and hopefully get a one-two, the first one for the year.”
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team