The Finn’s first lap in Q3 was blistering, his 1m 15.406s more than half a second quicker than anyone else — but Hamilton, who was his closest challenger, had made a mistake at turn eight, leaving time on the table.
The fight came down to the final runs, but neither driver was able to improve the second time around, confirming Bottas’s dominating 0.634-second margin and his third successive pole of the season.
“I really enjoyed that, I enjoyed the adrenaline rush,” he said. “I’m very pleased.”
“It’s started well, the season — the way I’d hoped for. I feel better and better in the car, so I look forward to tomorrow.”
For most of the weekend Hamilton has looked on the back foot compared to his teammate, and the Briton, who trails the Finn by a point in the championship standings, lamented that he wasn’t able to string a clean lap together all afternoon.
“Valtteri did a fantastic job,” he said. “On my side I just didn’t put the laps together — the last couple of laps in Q3 particularly just weren’t strong.
“Ultimately it just wasn’t a good enough job.”
But the reigning world champion said he was looking forward to the fight for victory on Sunday, noting that Mercedes was poised to extend its record-breaking start to the season to five straight one-two finishes.
“I’ll be giving it everything,” he said. “It’s great for the team to have a one-two — we’ll try to convert that int a one-two.”
The result will be of particular concern to Ferrari after the Italians pegged this race as a critical indicator of the health of its championship aspirations.
The Scuderia was strong at this circuit during preseason testing and was hoping this weekend would validate that its car was still strong, writing off the previous four rounds as anomalous, but Sebastian Vettel could qualify only third and 0.866 seconds off the pace.
The German admitted it was the most he could get from his car, confirming Mercedes’s advantage.
“I think we got everything out of the car,” he said. “The car doesn’t feel bad, but obviously we’re not quick enough.”
Worse for Ferrari was that Charles Leclerc won’t line up alongside his teammate after the Monegasque’s car required repairs at the start of Q3.
Leclerc ran onto a kerb during Q2 and appeared to damage some bodywork beneath his car, and the 21-year-old was forced to wait in his garage while it was fixed before setting a lap in Q3.
He was forced to set both his laps on one set of tyres because of the lost time, leaving him 1.1 seconds off the pace and fifth behind Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.
Pierre Gasly qualified sixth for Red Bull Racing, with Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen locking out the fourth row of the grid.
Daniil Kvyat was ninth-fastest for Toro Rosso, while Daniel Ricciardo qualifying 10th for Renault, though the Australian will start 13th after serving a three-place grid penalty for his crash with the Russian at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Both Haas drivers were confidently through behind the top three teams, leaving just two additional top-10 places available to vie for.
Daniil Kvyat put his Toro Rosso through after a strong final lap, while Daniel Ricciardo snuck through in 10th with just 0.039 seconds to spare.
Behind him fell McLaren’s Lando Norris in 11th ahead of Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon and teammate Carlos Sainz, but both drivers made mistakes, with Albon dropping time with a slide out of turn five and home crowd favourite Sainz making a mistake at the chicane and abandoning his lap.
Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez qualified 14th and 15th.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg caused an early yellow flag when he locked up on entry at turn four and slid into the barriers, breaking his front wing.
The German was able to limp back to the pits, his wing jammed beneath his car, and his team had him back out just seven minutes later after clearing him for any suspension issues.
But Hulkenberg’s first attempt left much to be desired, placing him on the elimination bubble with a margin of just 0.075 seconds. He was usurped in the final flurry of laps, dropping out of qualifying in 16th in a blow for Renault.
Lance Stroll qualified 17th for Racing Point, making it nine races in succession the Canadian has been knocked out of Q1, with Antonio Giovinazzi was 0.2 seconds further back after the Italian butchered his final flying lap despite looking quick enough to progress.
The Williams drivers locked out the back row of the grid, with George Russell blitzing Robert Kubica by 1.2 seconds, though the Englishman will start last when he serves a grid penalty for changing his gearbox before qualifying after a crash in Saturday morning practice.