Valterri Bottas claimed pole position for Formula 1’s Sakhir GP by just 0.026 seconds from stand-in team-mate George Russell, with Max Verstappen having to settle for third.
Verstappen had led final practice and Q2, but Bottas made an extra run in Q3 count as he set a blistering time of 53.377 seconds.
Bottas was the first contender to take to the Sakhir GP layout in the final session but was quickly beaten by Verstappen, who topped the timesheets after the first runs, and then Charles Leclerc, who delivered an electric lap to put his Ferrari in a surprise second.
Sitting in third and fifth, Mercedes quickly sent their drivers back out for another run and they made amends immediately, jumping to the top of the order with four minutes left in the session.
But the Finn had to wait anxiously after he failed to improve on his final attempt. Ultimately, it was good news over the radio as, despite improving, neither Russell or Verstappen could find enough time to take pole.
After the heroics of his one and only Q3 run, Leclerc watched from the garage as his effort was good enough for fourth.
Behind him, Sergio Perez took fifth with another impressive showing for Racing Point and he lines up ahead of Daniil Kvyat who claimed sixth with a last-gasp flying lap.
Daniel Ricciardo will start seventh for Renault ahead of Carlos Sainz in the McLaren, and Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll rounded out the top 10 in Q3.
In Q2, the 54-second mark was breached early with Perez topping the times after the first runs. In fact, the top five were separated by just 0.053s before the drivers came back out for a final attempt.
But who would beat the dreaded drop?
The times continued to tumble and Esteban Ocon, who was at risk, went eighth briefly before being shuffled down to 11th and out.
Alex Albon’s struggles continued and he couldn’t manage better than 12th, with Sebastian Vettel a further 0.149s back in the other Ferrari.
Antonio Giovinazzi was the lead Alfo Romeo in 14th, and Lando Norris, who seemed to mistime his Q2 attempt, disappointingly rounded out the top 15.
At the other end, it was as you were until Verstappen fired in an impressive time of 53.647 seconds to top the session from Perez and Bottas.
In Q1, Albon scraped through in 15th by less than a tenth of a second from Kevin Magnussen in the Haas.
And behind the Dane, Nicholas Latifi outqualified a team-mate for the first time, finishing 17th and ahead of debutant Jack Aitken who got within a tenth of the Canadian.
Kimi Raikkonen, who had a chance to demote Albon with his final flying lap, finished 19th, with Pietro Fittipaldi bringing up the rear of the field.
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 5, 2020
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