Did you speak to Bottas? – Christian Horner counters David Coulthard in dig at Mercedes

F1 preview: A lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal hit back at David Coulthard’s question on why not many of the drivers on Saturday appeared overly excited about their final position with a quick-witted remark on Valtteri Bottas. Charles Leclerc starts on pole for the Bahrain Grand Prix with Max Verstappen starting alongside him on the front row.

Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez make up the second row and it was expected to be a Mercedes lockout just behind them. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell had been neck-and-neck throughout qualifying and were fifth and sixth respectively after their first run.

Hamilton held onto fifth after improving on his second lap, but Russell fell down the order after a mistake on his final run. The young Briton ended up in ninth, leaving him with plenty of work to do in the race in a car which is struggling to find some pace.

Arguably the biggest story of the day though came with Bottas qualifying higher than the man who replaced him at Mercedes. The Finnish driver will start alongside Hamilton on the third row with Alfa Romeo in a good position to score some points.

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Most of the focus in today’s race will likely be on who comes out on top between the Ferraris and Red Bull. But Coulthard was left somewhat surprised at the lack of enthusiasm from the top three drivers after his post-qualifying interviews.

“I’m there, interviewing the top three drivers, I’m thinking they must be delighted to start the season with a top three,” Coulthard said. “Charles seems a little bit subdued. Max, maybe understandably, is like ‘well lets see tomorrow’. Carlos is telling us he made some improvements. Where’s the excitement gone from qualifying?

“Am I missing something? I know the points come tomorrow.”

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But Horner snuck in a little dig at Mercedes with his response, saying with a smile: “Did you speak to Bottas? I should think he’s very excited.”

He added: “For us, I think thats a very solid start. The whole design and technical team came onto this car pretty late in the day compared to our opposition.

“I think the hours they put in, the weekends they worked have been absolutely phenomenal so to have the car on the front row, less than a tenth off Ferrari, that’s great.”

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