Valtteri Bottas had finally achieved his greatly desired pole position after pipping team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 0.023s in Bahrain.
The Finn had been down on Hamilton’s time until his final run, and owing to the Brit having a rather scrappy last lap wasn’t bettered when the chequered flag was waved.
The feat sparked a rare but slight outcry of emotion from Bottas, who has wanted to secure the achievement since joining Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team at the start of the year.
“I’m really happy with my first Formula One pole,” he said. “It’s my fifth season in the sport now, so it took a few races.
“But we got it and hopefully it is the first of many. It feels good. I didn’t realise it’d been nearly 10 years since a Finn was last on pole. I’m very proud as always to drive for Finland and represent my country.”
Bottas achieved pole despite the intricacies that make Bahrain the tricky track that it is; if the sand doesn’t get you, the wind will. But he overcame them all to set his blistering time of 1:28.769.
“It’s not an easy track to get everything right,” he continued. “It’s quite a technical and there are a few tricky corners.
“But I I’ve been getting more and more comfortable with the car and managed to get the lap together. Thankfully it was good enough for pole.”
Qualifying also secured Mercedes’ first one-two of the season. With both Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull Racing behind them, Mercedes are poised for a very dominant race, with the possibility of Bottas securing his first win. Though he isn’t letting himself get carried away with the “possibles”.
“It’s great that we’re both starting from the front row,” he added. “We’ve done a really good job this weekend to focus on the evening conditions and really maximise the lap time in the car.
“We’ll enjoy this for a short period of time – but the main focus is the race tomorrow. There is no point to start dreaming just yet.
“It’s all about getting the maximum out of the race. As a team we can be really strong tomorrow.”