Formula 1 championship leader Valtteri Bottas says he does not view being out-qualified by Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain as a “disaster”. 

For the first time in his F1 career, Bottas - who leads the drivers’ standings following his commanding victory in Melbourne - was outpaced by a teammate at the Bahrain International Circuit as he had to settle for fourth on the grid. 

Hamilton pipped Bottas by just 0.066s to secure third place behind the dominant Ferrari pair headed by Charles Leclerc, who claimed his first-ever F1 pole position in Bahrain. 

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“It was OK in qualifying but it could have been better,” Bottas admitted. 

“It was pretty close between Lewis and me, I think he just got a bit better laps in the early runs, in Q2, and I had to chase him a little bit. In Q3 I was pretty pleased with my lap in the last run but all the weekend I haven’t been really able to nail a proper lap. 

“I can see the differences and it’s small things here and there, I could have definitively been quicker today, but it was not the easiest car to drive in qualifying. 

“We’re speaking of being a few hundreds of a second behind Lewis, so it’s not a disaster and we are there where the car’s pace is.”

After qualifying, both Hamilton and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff conceded the reigning world champions were lacking “significant” straight-line speed compared to Ferrari.

Asked if he thinks Mercedes is losing out in any other areas, Bottas replied: “Based on what we’ve seen today it’s mainly straight line speed. 

“There is a couple of corners where they are a bit better, then in general in the other corners it’s very similar and then there’s a couple of corners where we are better. 

“I would say the lap time difference came purely from the straight line, which is a very different picture from Melbourne, because there we were identical or a bit better than them, so it’s quite a big change. 

“Obviously, we have to look more at ourselves than at them, but they’ve obviously found something and I would say the pace difference we saw today matches more what we had seen in winter testing.

“I don’t think we’ve gone backwards, I think they were off the pace in Melbourne and back to their pace here. We didn’t see this kind of straight line speed in Melbourne, so that’s something they’ve improved and we need to improve.” 

Despite the deficit in qualifying, Bottas remains confident Mercedes can challenge for the win on Sunday. 

“The start is going to be the first opportunity,” he said.

"Here it can be a but messy, but hopefully we can get a good getaway from the line and hopefully we can really fight with them. I hope and I trust we really have a strong race pace to fight with them for the race win. I look forward to tomorrow, right from the race start.” 

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