Polewinner Valtteri Bottas was left impressed by George Russell’s progression during qualifying at the Bahrain Grand Prix as Mercedes locked out the front row.
Russell is replacing Lewis Hamilton this weekend after the world champion tested positive for COVID-19, and the Williams driver was quickest in both Friday practice sessions. Bottas responded in qualifying to take pole position by 0.026s after Russell just failed to beat his first attempt.
The Finn said that his temporary teammate excelled to ensure they start first and second: “I have to say George did a really good job. He was building up to it – I could see the progress in qualifying.
“Yesterday was quite a tricky day for me, personally, but today was a lot better,” Bottas continued. “The car felt more complete, more drivable, so I could really build on it lap by lap in FP3 and with a good feeling in qualifying. I’m slightly disappointed on myself – I didn’t improve my lap time in the end. But I was also the only car without any tow and the lap was not that great, so I couldn’t improve on the last run.
“I’m really happy to be on pole. In the end that’s how it is on a track like this; you cannot make big differences, so the gaps are really small, as you can see. I’m really happy for us, as a team, that we can be one-two on the grid. It’s another big achievement for us.”
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Explaining how he ended up with out a tow for his final run, Bottas said it was his own choice not to get one from Russell but he expected to pick one up from another car on such a short lap.
“Obviously, it was my call this weekend to choose whether I go first or second. I was first, but I was still expecting to have at least one car ahead of me in Q3. I didn’t – there were no cars ahead of me, so no tow at all.
“I could see and feel that I was not so fast on the straights. The corners were still quite OK, although I didn’t quite nail Turn 7/Turn 8 and maybe the exit of Turn 10 as well. To be honest it’s quite a tricky circuit to get everything right, with the twisty sections and everything but, like I said before, I’m glad I could still get a good enough lap and I’m just happy it was enough for pole.”