MONTMELO, Spain (AP):

Valtteri Bottas is poised to become a major threat to teammate and defending Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, after clocking a scorching lap at the Spanish Grand Prix to win his third consecutive pole position yesterday.

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Bottas smashed Hamilton’s track record at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit in qualifying, rocketing through the 4.6-kilometre (2.5-mile) track in 1 minute, 15.406 to better Hamilton’s mark from 2018.

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More importantly for Bottas’ hopes in today’s race was the gap of more than half a second he established over the best effort from Hamilton.

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Bottas, who failed to win a race last season, leads Hamilton by one point in the standings after they have alternated places in their run of one-two finishes.

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“I really enjoyed that adrenaline rush from those laps,” Bottas said. “It started well this season. Just the way I hoped for. I am feeling better and better in the car.”

With Hamilton second on the grid, Mercedes are in great position to extend their record start after the pair swept the top-two spots at the first four races

Hamilton praised his teammate, who has emerged as the No. 1 challenger to stopping him from winning a sixth world title

“Valtteri did a fantastic job. He has been quick all weekend,” said Hamilton, who took the pole in Spain in the previous three years

“I just didn’t do the job on my side.”

Hamilton was quick to add he hoped to celebrate another Mercedes team victory today, but with him on top. “I’ll be giving it everything. Great for the team to have a one-two. If I can reverse it (in the race) I’ll be happy.”

But Hamilton is getting far too accustomed to seeing the back of Bottas’ car. Bottas won the last race in Azerbaijan from the pole. He was fastest in practice on Friday, and the Finn showed no jitters in qualifying after spinning into gravel in the final practice

Bottas shouted an emphatic “Yes!” over the car radio when he knew the top spot was his after Hamilton came up short on his last run, with some gravel strewn on the course possible slowing him down

Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari will start from third, just in front of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Ferrari’s other driver, Charles Leclerc, will start from fifth

Vettel has yet to top qualifying, and it is clear Ferrari has made up no ground despite bringing a new engine to Spain. Vettel is 35 points behind Bottas in third place

“The car doesn’t feel bad, but the car is not quick enough,” Vettel said. “We are struggling a little bit to bring it together.”