Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland, centre, celebrates his first place in the qualifying session, with second-placed Lewis Hamilton of Britain, left, and third Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany, at the Baku Formula One city circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan on Saturday. Photo: Sergei Grits/AP

BAKU – Valtteri Bottas hopes to turn pole position into a victory that will erase bad memories on Sunday when he lines up for the start of Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Finn, who claimed the eighth pole of his career in Saturday’s extended accident-strewn qualifying session, was on course to win last year’s race until his car suffered a puncture with three laps remaining.

That gifted victory to his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton who on Saturday wound up second behind him after a closely-fought final session.

It was Bottas’ first pole in Baku and second this year.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had looked likely to take pole before he crashed out of contention in Q2. His team-mate Sebastian Vettel was third.

“I am really happy for this pole,” said the bearded Bottas, who has become more competitive this year. “And it is a nice feeling to get it on the last lap.

“It was a nice last lap and, like I said, Ferrari have been really strong. Obviously, Charles is out with a mistake, but, as a team, we did a really good job to be where we are now after such a difficult practice.

“It is all about small margins – and I did get a good tow on that last lap. Of course, the corners I have to drive as well. It is all about small details and I managed to hit the sweet spot.

“It was getting trickier and trickier. We are not supposed to race that late here, but I got them (the tyres) to work somehow.”

AFP