Saturday, December 5, 2020

Bottas Edges Russell for Sakhir Grand Prix Pole

Photo Credit: LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

The third and final time the 2020 Formula 1 season which two races will be held back-to-back at a single venue, the Bahrain International Circuit is the only setting where two different track configurations will be used as teams set to run the first Sakhir Grand Prix. 

At 3.543 kilometers in length, the 11-turn Outer Circuit layout within the motorsport complex is considerably shorter than the 5.412-kilometer Grand Prix Circuit used for last week’s Bahrain Grand Prix. In Formula 1's 70-year history, the track for the Sakhir Grand Prix is the fifth-shortest ever competed upon.

Due to several events that have transpired in the past week, the driver lineup for the Sakhir Grand Prix has been noticeably shuffled. Following news of Formula 1 superstar Lewis Hamilton’s positive test for COVID-19, Williams Racing driver George Russell will belt into the car of the seven-time world driving champion. With Russell’s acting role with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, Brit Jack Aitken will make his debut in the series driving for Williams. The 25-year-old Aitken boasts four wins in the Formula 2 championship over three years and has claimed championships in the two Formula Renault 2.0 series in 2015. Jack Aitken has operated as a test driver for Williams Racing throughout 2020. 

Another driver making set to make has first Formula 1 grand prix start in his career will be Pietro Fittipaldi filling in for the injured Romain Grosjean at the Haas F1 Team. The grandson of two-time Formula 1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, the 24-year-old American-born Brazilian already boasts a diverse, respectable driving background that includes the 2017 World Series Formula V8 3.5 championship as well as the track championship at Hickory Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.  

Photo Credit: Zak Mauger/LAT Images/Pirelli

At the controls of a Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance, George Russell demonstrated an apparent affinity for the race car fielded by the championship-winning team. Fastest in both Friday practices, there were some high hopes for the British driver heading into Saturday. In the final practice session before Saturday qualifying, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas were at the top of the time sheet showing the advantage of drivers handling their familiar vehicles around the Bahrain International Circuit’s outer track. 

Qualifying for the Sakhir Grand Prix would be highlighted by some of the shortest lap times in Formula 1 history as competitors ran on the short and high-speed race course. After qualifying was completed, all 20 drivers had set a track time well under a minute. Eliminated in Q1 with the slowest time, Haas F1 Team’s Pietro Fittipaldi lapped the Outer Circuit in a time of 55.426 seconds. 

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C S.p.A.

Clocked with setting a 53.377-second lap in Q3, Mercedes-AMG regular driver Valtteri Bottas found a slight notch of speed that spoiled interim teammate George Russell’s best-ever opportunity at a pole in his career. Not entirely pleased with his pole-winning run, Bottas said, “It was fairly close in the end, so I’m pleased it was enough for pole position” following qualifying in a Mercedes-AMG team news release. Valterri Bottas’ fifth pole for the 2020 season comes as the Finnish driver is fending off Red Bull Racing pilot Max Verstappen in the runner-up spot in the drivers’ championship. Heading into the Sakhir Grand Prix, the margin between second and third place in the standings is 12 points. 

Falling just short of his first Formula 1 pole by 0.026 seconds, George Russell in the #63 Mercedes pulled off his most successful qualifying effort during a nearly two-year career in the series. Russell’s second-place starting spot also secured an all-Mercedes front row for the 12th time in 2020. 

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C S.p.A.

Max Verstappen placed his Honda-powered Red Bull race car into third following Q3 starting alongside Charles Leclerc who mounted a magnificent lap in his Ferrari. Sharing the third row of the Sakhir Grand Prix is Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and the Daniil Kvyat driving for Scuderia AlphaTauri. This qualifying performance for Kvyat is only the third time this season he outpaced his teammate Pierre Gasly in the time trials for setting a race grid. Australian Daniel Ricciardo will start in seventh place for Sunday’s race positioned beside Carlos Sainz Jr.’s McLaren race machine. Occupying the fifth row of the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix is Pierre Gasly and the second Racing Point of Lance Stroll. Between Bottas and Stroll in Q3, a gap of 0.823 seconds separates the 10-car group. 

Making their debuts at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, Jack Aitken will start from the 18th place spot in the #89 Williams/Mercedes-Benz race car while Pietro Fittipaldi is placed at the tail-end of the field in the #51 Haas F1 Team VF-20. 

Start time for the 87-lap Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain is scheduled Sunday at 8:10 P.M. local time (12:10 P.M. eastern time). 

2020 Formula 1
Sakhir Grand Prix
Starting Lineup

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