Bottas puts Mercedes on pole in Russia

Valtteri Bottas has earned pole position for the Russian Grand Prix. (AFP pic)

SOCHI: Finland’s Valtteri Bottas took pole position for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday with Mercedes teammate and Formula One leader Lewis Hamilton having to settle for second place on the starting grid.

Hamilton’s Ferrari title rival Sebastian Vettel, 40 points behind the Briton with six races remaining in the battle of four-time world champions, will start third at the Black Sea circuit.

The pole, in a track record of one minute, 31.387 seconds, was only the second this season for Bottas, who is 110 points behind Hamilton. It also came at the track where last year he celebrated his first win.

“He’s driven brilliantly this weekend and he just did a better job,” said Hamilton, who had been fastest in the first two parts of the session and looked set 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.

Vettel, who had led an all-Ferrari front row in Russia last year with Bottas third, hoped Sunday could see the tables turned.

“I just spoke to Valtteri and reminded him what happened last year so maybe we can turn that around this time,” the German told reporters.

“It was important to get as close to them but it is true they have been very quick. It is a long race and the tyres will be important. We should’ve been a lot closer,” he added.

“The car felt alright so that makes me happy. If there is a gap, we will go for it.”