Lewis Hamilton happy for 'exceptional' Valtteri Bottas after Bahrain pole

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer in Bahrain
Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton
Listen to live coverage of Sunday's race on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and BBC Sport website

Lewis Hamilton said he was "genuinely happy" to see Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas score his first pole at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Finn, brought in by Mercedes this year as the replacement for retired world champion Nico Rosberg, beat Hamilton by just 0.023 seconds.

"Good things happen to good people," said three-time champion Hamilton.

"He is a great guy and it is his first pole so he will be struggling to sleep tonight through excitement."

Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix is live on the BBC Sport website and radio 5 live.

Bottas' lap brought to an end Hamilton's run of six consecutive poles dating back to last year's US Grand Prix.

"I've had a decent run," Hamilton said. "I'm very happy with what I've had.

"I'm genuinely very happy for Valtteri. He has done a fantastic job, been inching away at it bit by bit. He did a better job today.

"It could be his first win, and if it's not he will get a win. He's an exceptional driver.

"The first sector was my weak point but the second and third were very good. It wasn't terrible. It was very close, only a quarter of a tenth so I can't be too angry."

Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton will be looking for his third win in Bahrain on Sunday

Hamilton added: "There's going to be lots of ups and downs throughout the year but Valtteri's definitely keeping me on my toes. He's getting stronger and stronger.

"I know how special it is to have your first pole position. It is just amazing. You dream of it as a kid and I know that he will be enjoying it.

"But obviously I will try my hardest to win the race."

Bottas has bounced back from a difficult race in China last weekend, in which he spun while warming his tyres behind the safety car and finished sixth as Hamilton won.

"It's always nice to have a good result whether you've had a good or bad weekend before but for sure if you've had a bit of a struggle in the last race it's always nice to start the weekend in a good way," Bottas said.

"The race is what matters but it's good. I'd rather be on pole than anything less, so let's see.

"There is no point to start dreaming about anything."

Hamilton fears the pace of the Ferraris in the race, with Sebastian Vettel - who is leading the championship jointly with Hamilton - starting third.

"Ferrari, in their race pace, they are very quick," Hamilton said.

Vettel added: "It's a long race, tyre management will be crucial conditions will be a bit different and a lot of things can change around.

"We were a little bit further back than we hoped. We should have a good car in the race and take it from there."

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