By Robert Haile
It’s a front row lockout for Mercedes AMG as Valtteri Bottas beat teammate Lewis Hamilton by 0.007 of a second in today’s, May 1, qualifying.
Going for his one hundredth career pole position Hamilton was also looking to gain an advantage over rival Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, who is second in the drivers championship behind him.
It was Bottas who beat the seven time champion to take his seventeenth pole and Mercedes seventy fifth front row lockout in their modern era.
Taking the first qualifying session Bottas repeated the feat in the final session clocking a 1.18:348 to lead the pack and start on pole.
After qualifying Bottas said: “We worked hard to figure out the issues I was experiencing in qualifying, we put things right and this is the result – it’s more like how it should be, so I’m happy. In the first two races, I knew the speed was there but my main issue was tyre warm-up.
“We’ve put a lot of focus on that, we learned some lessons and I always knew our hard work would pay off. The key was to stay calm, execute the plan and focus on the small details, particularly on the out-laps.
“We’ve been stronger than expected which is a positive surprise but it’s only qualifying, I’m already thinking about tomorrow. We know the Red Bulls have a strong race car and we are expecting an epic battle.”
Hamilton was in a reflecting mood saying: “Not that enjoyable of a session because I couldn’t get that many good laps in but I’m not too frustrated, I only did one good lap and that was in Q2 (qualifying 2). Of course I’d have loved to put more good laps together but it was tricky out there. It’s a slippery track, the tyres are hard so you need to do multiple laps to put temperature into them and it’s quite a peaky balance – it works for a second and then falls away very quickly, it’s on a knife-edge.
“It wasn’t meant to be but Valtteri did a great job today and I’m just focused on the race. Now is the time to understand strategy for tomorrow and work out where the opportunities lie. It’s not an easy track to follow but we shall we see – I hope we have good enough pace to fight for the win, tomorrow we’ll go all in.”
It almost wasn’t to be as Verstappen had a 1.18:209 lap deleted due to an exceeding of track limits before coming in third ahead of teammate Sergio Perez.
Mercedes Team Principle, Toto Wolff said: “Qualifying was always our weakness in the first two races and now we’re back at the front. We have seen these kinds of performances from Valtteri in the past and today was a mega day for him.
“But I have no doubt, like I’ve always said, he can be right up there. Tomorrow we have two Mercedes with two Red Bulls just behind, good ingredients for a nice race.”
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz will start from fifth, Alpine driver Esteban Ocon in sixth with Lando Norris starting in seventh after finishing third in Italy for McLaren.
Charles Leclerc will be hoping to improve in the race and finish higher than his starting position of eighth as AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly starts from ninth with Sebastian Vettel finishing tenth in his first outing in the final qualifying session for Aston Martin.
Q3 – Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Sergio Perez (Red Bull), Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), Esteban Ocon (Alpine), Lando Norris (McLaren), Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
Q2 – George Russel (Williams), Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), Ferando Alonso (Alpine), Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), Kimi Räikkönen (Alfa Romeo)
Q1 – Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren), Lance Stroll (Aston Martin), Nicholas Latifi (Williams), Mick Schumacher (Haas), Nikita Mazepin (Haas)