Valtteri Bottas narrowly beat Mercedes substitute George Russell to claim pole position for Formula 1’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain.

The Finn turned in a 0:53.377s around Bahrain’s Outer Loop circuit to edge Russell to his fourth pole of the season by just 0.026s in what was the Briton’s first-ever qualifying session for Mercedes.

It was a phenomenal effort from Russell, who has been promoted from Williams to replace Lewis Hamilton this weekend after the seven-time world champion tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to miss the first race of his F1 career.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen sat on provisional pole after the initial runs in Q3 and looked well-placed to challenge the Mercedes to take his first pole of 2020, but Bottas and Russell both improved to usurp the Dutchman and relegate him to his usual third place in qualifying, albeit just 0.056s off pole. 

A stunning lap from Charles Leclerc ensured he will start on the second row of the grid alongside Verstappen in fourth, ahead of Sergio Perez, who was just four-tenths off pole in another strong showing for Racing Point.

AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat also impressed with a brilliant effort to secure sixth, ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and his teammate Pierre Gasly, while Lance Stroll completed the top 10.

Esteban Ocon was 11th ahead of Alex Albon, who failed to progress to Q3 for the third time this season, a result which will will not help to alleviate any of the pressure the Thai racer finds himself under to secure his seat at Red Bull for 2021.

Sebastian Vettel was unable to join his Ferrari teammate in the top-10 shootout with a scruffy Q2 session as he outpaced Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi by two-tenths of a second.

A messy session left Lando Norris with his worst qualifying result of the season after the McLaren driver aborted his first run and failed to improve on his final effort to finish a disappointing 15th.

Kevin Magnussen missed out on a spot in Q2 by just 0.091s as he finished 16th-fastest, while Nicholas Latifi out-qualified his teammate for the first time in his rookie campaign to take 17th ahead of F1 debutant Jack Aitken.

A sterling effort from Aitken saw him get within a tenth of Latifi’s best time despite a wide moment at the final corner on his fastest lap, with the British-Korean driver also managing to outpace both Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and Pietro Fittipaldi in his first-ever F1 qualifying session.

Fittipaldi - grandson of two-time F1 world champion Emerson - was slowest of all on his maiden grand prix weekend outing for Haas having replaced the injured Romain Grosjean.

The 24-year-old Brazilian was already due to start at the back of the grid after taking on new power unit elements on his VF-20.

FULL QUALIFYING RESULTS FOR THE 2020 F1 SAKHIR GRAND PRIX.

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