Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Bottas breaks Lauda’s 46-year-old record as Mercedes pair are closest team mates in qualifying

Lap time watch: 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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The record for the shortest ever lap of an F1 circuit was broken – indeed, smashed – by Valtteri Bottas on the Bahrain Outer circuit today.

Sub-one minute laps are rare but not unheard of in Formula 1. But we haven’t regularly seen them since the championship raced at the compact Dijon circuit in France.

There in 1974 Niki Lauda – a non-executive director at Mercedes until his death last year – set the previous record for the shortest lap of an F1 circuit. He put his Ferrari on pole position with a lap of 58.790 seconds.

Bottas comprehensively beat that with the 53.377 second lap which put him on pole position for the Sakhir Grand Prix. Bahrain Outer is longer (3.543km) than Dijon was in 1974 (3.289km), so Bottas’s average lap speed was considerably higher: 238.9kph versus 201.4kph.

But arguably the more interesting feature of qualifying was not who set the pole position time, but who almost did. George Russell, on his debut for Mercedes, was just fractionally slower than Bottas, the pair separated by 0.026 seconds.

They were the most closely-matched team mates today. Curiously, the next-closest fight was at Russell’s former team, Williams, where Nicholas Latifi beat newcomer Jack Aitken by 0.096 seconds.

The short Bahrain Outer circuit also meant very tight field. Less than one-and-a-half seconds covered the fastest team to the slowest.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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3 comments on “Bottas breaks Lauda’s 46-year-old record as Mercedes pair are closest team mates in qualifying”

  1. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
    6th December 2020, 5:06

    Well ideally the whole F1 field broke the lap record yesterday with Bottas being the fastest among them.

  2. Not quite 1.5 seconds as P. Fittipaldi’s personal best is a little over that, but close enough. Nevertheless, the tightest field in any QLF this season and likely to not happen again anytime soon, if ever. The record for outright fastest lap in F1 belongs to, of course, Monza since this gets defined by the average lap speed rather than how low-numbered the time is, and Monza’s is higher than the Outer Loop configuration’s, probably because of the difference in lengths (3.5 versus 5.8 km). I expected them to be closer in this regard but got slightly mistaken.

  3. That 5-race average graph is handy but needs to be in percentages not seconds. It’s pretty meaningless given how different the lap lengths are track to track. I might also suggest removing turkey because it’s such an outlier.

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