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Lewis Hamilton: Valtteri Bottas keeping me on my toes after Bahrain pole

Lewis Hamilton congratulated teammate Valtteri Bottas for his maiden pole position in Bahrain and said the Finn simply "did the better job" as the Mercedes drivers locked out the front row.

Hamilton looked set for a seventh consecutive pole going into the final Q3 run with a slender lead over Bottas. However, the Finn posted a 1:28.769 with his last attempt, something Hamilton could only get within 0.023s of after a scrappy middle sector.

That gave Bottas the first pole position of his Formula One career in just his third race with Mercedes. The Finn was met by a warm handshake from his teammate in parc ferme, before Hamilton went on to praise Bottas' performance.

"Well firstly a big congratulations to Valtteri, he's been working so hard and gelled so well with the team," Hamilton said. "Today he was just quicker, he did the better job, so hat off to him. The first lap felt great and I looked up and the time was so close, and I thought 'wow, that's a good lap, he did a great job'.

"I was losing quite a bit of time through the first sector, it's generally my weaker point which is actually unusual, usually a stronger point for me. I'll work on it for tomorrow, but Valtteri found some great pace through particularly the first sector. The second and third ended up being quite good. Overall a little bit down [on time].

"A great battle, that's how close qualifying should always be. It forces us all to be on the limit. I'm generally happy with the job I did and it's great for the team to be one-two."

When asked if Bottas' pole position proved 2017 is a three-way fight for the title, instead of just a Hamilton-Sebastian Vettel rivalry, the three-time world champion replied: "It always was. At least the three, maybe four. Valtteri's been right there with us from the beginning, so nothing changes."

"Valtteri is definitely keeping me on my toes, thoroughly happy for him today. He really deserved that lap. His first pole, I know how special it is to have your first pole position. It's just amazing. You dream of it as a kid. I know he'll be enjoying it. Tomorrow could be his first grand prix win ever. Obviously I'll try my hardest to win the race, but whichever the case, he's going to have one at some stage this year if it's not tomorrow, because he's getting stronger and stronger."