SAKHIR, Bahrain -- Valtteri Bottas took the first pole position of his Formula One career after beating Lewis Hamilton by 0.023s in a tense final session of qualifying at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The slender margin reflected a tight battle between the two Mercedes drivers throughout qualifying, which just tipped in Bottas' favour in the closing stages. A slightly scrappy middle sector for Hamilton on his final flying lap presented the opportunity to Bottas and, in just in his third race with the team, he seized the moment with a lap time of 1:28.769.
The threat from Ferrari failed to emerge, with Sebastian Vettel 0.478s off pole after failing to improve on his second run. He lost the most time in sectors one and three, which are all about power in Bahrain and rewarded the Mercedes engine's super-fast qualifying mode. The tables could be turned on Sunday however, after Ferrari showing strong race pace during Friday's practice sessions.
Daniel Ricciardo pipped Kimi Raikkonen to fourth by 0.022s as a Red Bull ventured as high as the second row for the first time this year. Max Verstappen was a further 0.142s off teammate Ricciardo in sixth, but held off the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg, which was just 0.155s slower in seventh.
Felipe Massa took eighth for Williams ahead of an impressive performance by Romain Grosjean in the Haas and Jolyon Palmer in the second Renault.
Daniil Kvyat just missed out on a place in Q3 after running wide at the final corner on his hot lap and finishing 0.024s off Jolyon Palmer's Q2 time. Lance Stroll failed to make Q3 and will start 12th just ahead of Pascal Wehrlein, who will return to the starting grid for the first time this year in an impressive 13th place after sitting out the first two races.
Esteban Ocon took 14th after struggling with the rear of his Force India, beating Fernando Alonso, who did not set a time in Q2 after a Honda engine problem on his McLaren that will require a power unit change ahead of Sunday's race.
Carlos Sainz missed out on a place in Q2 by 0.064s after his Toro Rosso came to a halt on his quick lap. Up to that point his lap had set the quickest first sector of all and a very competitive second sector, but the loss of power meant he dropped out and Alonso made the cut.
Stoffel Vandoorne was 0.259s off his McLaren teammate and will start 17th ahead of Sergio Perez whose quick lap at the end was ruined by the yellow flags for Sainz's stricken Toro Rosso.
Marcus Ericsson and Kevin Magnussen, who also had to back off for Sainz's yellow flags, will make up the back row of the grid in the Sauber and the Haas.