MANAMA (BAHRAIN) • Valtteri Bottas has scored the first pole position of his Formula One career, claiming the top spot for today's Bahrain Grand Prix.
He beat Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who had been leading throughout qualifying and gunning for his seventh successive pole in the Persian Gulf country, into second place yesterday.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was third but the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo split the German from his team-mate, taking fourth in front of Kimi Raikkonen.
New Mercedes driver Bottas' previous-best race finish was two second places for Williams and it is the first time that Mercedes have managed to lock out the front row of the grid this season, the 48th time they have done so.
They now have the chance to exploit the advantage with both cars starting in front of the Ferraris.
Bottas had put in a strong lap, setting a good time initially on his first run in Q3 but Hamilton had it covered and went quickest with a lap five-hundredths better than his team-mate.
BAHRAIN GP STARTING GRID
1 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
4 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull
5 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari
6 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
7 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault
8 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams
9 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas
10 Jolyon Palmer (Gbr) Renault
11 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso
12 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams
13 Pascal Wehrlein (Ger) Sauber
14 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India
15 Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren
16 Carlos Sainz Jr (Esp) Toro Rosso
17 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel)McLaren
18 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India
19 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber
20 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas
However on the final hot lap, the Finn improved, delivering a flawless run in 1min 28.769sec. The Briton lost time in the first sector and could not match him, finishing three-hundredths back.
"Congrats Valtteri Bottas 1st pole! Great lap. Happy for all you guys at merc that Valtteri is going well," tweeted Nico Rosberg, whose decision to quit after winning the 2016 world title opened up a Mercedes vacancy for this season.
Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull was sixth, while Nico Hulkenberg was mightily impressive to take seventh in the Renault.
Felipe Massa's Williams was eighth, Haas' Romain Grosjean ninth and Britain's Jolyon Palmer did well to put his Renault into Q3 for the first time this season, finishing in 10th place.
McLaren had another disappointing session and the problems were once again with the Honda engine. Fernando Alonso was unable to run in Q2 with a power unit problem and finished 15th.
Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat was 11th, Lance Stroll in his Williams 12th; Pascal Wehrlein's Sauber was 13th and the Force India of Esteban Ocon 14th.
Force India's Sergio Perez was knocked out in Q1 in 18th place - underperforming at a circuit at which the team and driver have been traditionally strong.
Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz lost power in the final session and finished 16th. McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne was 17th with Sauber's Marcus Ericsson 19th and the Haas of Kevin Magnussen last.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE