Finland’s Valtteri Bottas took first place on Saturday for the start of the Russian Grand Prix, while Lewis Hamilton, his Mercedes team-mate and Formula One championship leader, had to settle for second place on the starting grid.
Hamilton’s main title rival, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, will start third on the Black Sea circuit.
The German driver is 40 points behind the Briton when there are six races left in the battle for the championship between the four-time world champions.
The pole, achieved with a record of one minute and 31.387 seconds, was the second in this season for Bottas, who is 110 points behind Hamilton. It is also given at a track where he celebrated his first victory last year.
“He has driven brilliantly this weekend and just did a better job,” said Hamilton, who had been the fastest in the first two practices and seemed to be ready for a career 80th pole until he went wide at turn seven.
“My last two laps of Q3 weren’t great — you can’t always have it — but we’re still in contention for tomorrow,” added the Briton, who will be chasing his eighth win of the campaign.
“It’s a long way down to turn one so we’ll still have a fight at least tomorrow.”
Team boss Toto Wolff said Bottas “was so pumped the adrenaline was coming out of his ears” but left open a question about whether Mercedes would enforce team orders in Hamilton’s favor come race day. ( Quotes Source Reuters)