New Mercedes F1 Recruit George Russell Only Just Loses Pole To Valtteri Bottas Ahead Of Sakhir GP

Illustration for article titled New Mercedes F1 Recruit George Russell Only Just Loses Pole To Valtteri Bottas Ahead Of Sakhir GP
Photo: HAMAD I MOHAMMED (Getty Images)

Qualifying for the Formula One Sakhir Grand Prix at the Bahrain outer loop looked a hell of a lot different than qualifying just one week ago: Lewis Hamilton is out after a positive COVID-19 test, George Russell has replaced him at Mercedes, Jack Aitken took Russell’s place at Willams, and Pietro Fittipaldi has taken over for the injured Romain Grosjean. Got all that? Good. All that chaos left Valtteri Bottas to qualify on pole—but not much farther ahead of his new teammate.

The ultra-fast outer loop circuit has never been used for an international competition before, and its sub-60 second lap times meant we’d see some truly flying laps worthy of breaking the previous F1 lap record.

Out After Q1:

16. Kevin Magnussen
17. Nicholas Latifi
18. Jack Aitken
19. Kimi Raikkonen
20. Pietro Fittipaldi

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The second qualifying session kicked off with several different drivers alternating the top position. That said, the big talking point was the Valtteri Bottas-George Russell battle. Bottas started the weekend noting that it would be truly embarrassing to be outqualified or outraced on pace during the Sakhir Grand Prix—so all eyes were on just how close both Mercedes drivers were this weekend. Both drivers were generally less than a hundredth of a second apart.

Out After Q2:

11. Esteban Ocon
12. Alex Albon
13. Sebastian Vettel
14. Antonio Giovinazzi
15. Lando Norris

I don’t think I’d be alone in saying that I had no idea what to expect during Q3: Mercedes was the easy choice for domination, but both Red Bull Racing machines looked fast, as did Charles Leclerc. The session opened in a big way, with several drivers swapping the top positions well before the entire grid had actually set a time.

But with four minutes left to go, Mercedes launched to the top of the charts, with Bottas leading his new teammate. Just two hundredths separated the two drivers at the end.

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Interestingly, this is the first time Russell has failed to outqualify his teammate.

Top 10:

1. Valtteri Bottas
2. George Russell
3. Max Verstappen
4. Charles Leclerc
5. Sergio Perez
6. Daniil Kvyat
7. Daniel Ricciardo
8. Carlos Sainz
9. Pierre Gasly
10. Lance Stroll

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

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DISCUSSION

because-stig
Alpha Hooning

So how good is Lewis compared to the field? If Russell can get in a car within a week and almost gets pole.