Vettel 'down' over gap to Mercedes

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain leaves the team box during the first practice session for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix, at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, April 14, 2017.

After qualifying third in Australia and China, Bottas found the set-up and speed to turn the tables on the two championship leaders, his best lap allowing him to beat Hamilton by 0.023 seconds in the closing minutes of the top-ten shootout.

Fernando Alonso misses next month's Monaco Grand Prix as he heads to the United States to take on the Indianapolis 500, and the Spaniard, who will be replaced by Jenson Button, will be looking forward to the change of scenery. The more time you spend with a auto, and driving it, you get more at one with the vehicle. "He's been working so hard, he's gelled so well with the team and today he was just quicker".

In fact, Bottas says that he is happy with his progress so far, even if he initially struggled to cope with the anger of spinning behind the safety vehicle in China. "My last lap was a good one, good enough for pole today so that's good".

"When I got the time I was a bit down, four tenths was a lot more than I expected given how good the lap felt". Jenson Button, his replacement for Monte Carlo, is unlikely to be chomping at the bit to get back in the hapless McLaren. "I definitely feel better and better".

Valtteri Bottas says he must regain his focus and concentrate on taking advantage of his first ever pole at the Bahrain GP. I don't think for a long time it's been more than three or four drivers, but I'm really happy that it is more than just the two of us. But the main thing is tomorrow. There's no point in dreaming.

"It's credit to the team as we are both starting in the front row".

Bottas" lap was comfortably faster than Rosberg's pole time a year ago of 1:29.493, but the overall speed of the new era "fatter-and-faster' machines was less notable in the desert heat than it had been at the two previous races. We're both doing that, and that's a great place to be.

"They looked already a bit stronger this afternoon, so I haven't seen much yet".

Hamilton has become more accustomed to battling for the drivers' championship within his own Mercedes team, twice beating Rosberg to the title - once easily and once in the last race of the season - only to lose it to the German driver past year. But I didn't feel what we have learned had translated into half a second. When he talks up Vettel in the way he does, Hamilton is also reminding Rosberg of what he will never achieve.