Ever wonder how race teams get great rental car rates? Now you can, too! Find out more.
Enterprise and National: Here to serve your company's needs

NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Valtteri Bottas Earns Sakhir Grand Prix Pole Position

Valtteri Bottas nabbed his fifth pole position of the 2020 Formula 1 season on Saturday night (Dec. 5).  The Fin held off his temporary teammate by 0.002 seconds to secure the pole and earn Mercedes another front-row lockout.  George Russell, filling in for the COVID-stricken Lewis Hamilton, looked impressive in his drive for the Silver Arrows after he was called up from the Mercedes-affiliate Williams.

Max Verstappen looked like he would be the real beneficiary of Hamilton’s absence, with pole well within reach, but he could muster only so much in his Red Bull.  Charles Leclerc may have provided the most impressive drive, laying down a blistering lap in a Ferrari that has shown little in the way of top-end pace throughout this season.  His surprising lap puts him in fourth alongside Verstappen in the second row.

Sergio Perez continued his strong late-season run by claiming fifth for the Sakhir GP.  Perez has shown excellent qualifying and race pace during the latter half of the season and his status as an unsigned driver for next year grows increasingly comical with each race.  Starting with Perez in the third row will be Daniil Kvyat who came through for AlphaTauri.

Daniel Ricciardo’s pace in the Renault has seemed to have dropped over the past few races and the driver who is enjoying his penultimate race with the French manufacturer earned seventh for the race.  Carlos Sainz looked like he might place in the top five but finds himself starting eighth on Sunday.

Pierre Gasly, who has looked like the future for AlphaTauri, wound up ninth and will start with Lance Stroll beside him on the fifth row.

The series is utilizing the same track as last weekend’s Bahrain GP but the configuration looks almost like a quad-oval.  The high speeds from this less twisty and means that drivers are pushing their cars more flat out than they do at other tracks.  The result of this setup is that lap times are under one minute and the track is seemingly more crowded.

Gaining a tow, or using the slipstream of the car in front, has benefits but the fast straights lead to hard breaking where the tow can be mitigated.

One of the struggles in qualifying came when teams found it difficult to place a driver in an open spot in an attempt to give them the best ability to enjoy clean air.  This scenario played out disastrously for Lando Norris and McLaren, who never slotted into the right spot and Norris failed to get out of Q2 and will start in 15th.  His result showcases how the starting grid will be a bit of a mix-up at the start.  The fascinating thing to see will be whether or not faster cars in the rear can make their way through.

One driver who merely needs to hold on is George Russell.  His second-place qualifying effort looks stellar.  While Bottas may have capitalized on Hamilton’s absence to claim the top spot, it is Russell who looks brilliant after narrowly missing out on pole.

In what could be asserted as ‘what a difference a car makes’, Russell’s jump from Williams to Mercedes shows that he is not without talent but rather he is without a car to match his talent.  His result puts pressure on both Bottas and Hamilton.

For Bottas, he could easily be supplanted by the young Briton.  For Hamilton, some of his negotiating leverage for his current contract talks may have been eroded – not by a lion’s share but Mercedes now have data that could maybe shave a million off the final total.

One driver who may have driven himself out of the sport is Alex Albon who needed a solid qualifying effort but would up 12th.  With team principal Christian Horner maintaining that the seat is Albon’s to lose but that he also has to win it, there is an increasing sense that he has lost it.  With Perez in the lurch, it is not unfathomable to see the Spaniard taking over for Albon.

The Sakhir GP will air on ESPN on Sunday at 12:10 pm ET.

 

POS

NO

DRIVER

CAR

Q1

Q2

Q3

LAPS

1

77

Valtteri Bottas

MERCEDES

53.904

53.803

53.377

24

2

63

George Russell

MERCEDES

54.160

53.819

53.403

25

3

33

Max Verstappen

RED BULL RACING HONDA

54.037

53.647

53.433

17

4

16

Charles Leclerc

FERRARI

54.249

53.825

53.613

21

5

11

Sergio Perez

RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES

54.236

53.787

53.790

17

6

26

Daniil Kvyat

ALPHATAURI HONDA

54.346

53.856

53.906

26

7

3

Daniel Ricciardo

RENAULT

54.388

53.871

53.957

15

8

55

Carlos Sainz

MCLAREN RENAULT

54.450

53.818

54.010

20

9

10

Pierre Gasly

ALPHATAURI HONDA

54.207

53.941

54.154

28

10

18

Lance Stroll

RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES

54.595

53.840

54.200

19

11

31

Esteban Ocon

RENAULT

54.309

53.995

13

12

23

Alexander Albon

RED BULL RACING HONDA

54.620

54.026

12

13

5

Sebastian Vettel

FERRARI

54.301

54.175

17

14

99

Antonio Giovinazzi

ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI

54.523

54.377

14

15

4

Lando Norris

MCLAREN RENAULT

54.194

54.693

15

16

20

Kevin Magnussen

HAAS FERRARI

54.705

9

17

6

Nicholas Latifi

WILLIAMS MERCEDES

54.796

11

18

89

Jack Aitken

WILLIAMS MERCEDES

54.892

9

19

7

Kimi Räikkönen

ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI

54.963

11

20

51

Pietro Fittipaldi

HAAS FERRARI

55.426

11

Support Frontstretch on Patreon
Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.