Newly crowned world champion Lewis Hamilton achieved another pole position, this time at Bahrain beating his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen in the Red Bull.
After Verstappen had led the final practice session, Hamilton hit back to top all three segments of qualifying, leading the way on the first runs in Q3 with a lap time of one minute, 27.677 seconds.
The 2020 world champion then found time in all three sectors on his second run on the soft Pirelli compound, ending up with a new track record of one minute, 27.264 seconds.
Verstappen had been in second position after the first runs in Q3, after which he complained he did not have the rear grip he had enjoyed earlier, with Bottas in third place.
But the Mercedes driver was able to find enough time on his final run to jump ahead, as Verstappen lost time in the final sector and wound up 0.414 seconds behind Hamilton.
Alex Albon took fourth position ahead of Sergio Perez, who demoted Daniel Ricciardo one spot on his final effort.
Esteban Ocon will start behind his Renault teammate in seventh, with Pierre Gasly eighth for AlphaTauri.
Lando Norris and Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten in Q3.
Q2 was disrupted by a red flag after Carlos Sainz spun at the end of the main straight, when the rear wheels on his McLaren suddenly locked as he approached Turn 1.
Sainz came to rest at the edge of the track and could not get going again, which forced the FIA to stop the session so his car could be recovered.
This stopped a big group of cars, led by Ricciardo, from setting the opening timed laps of the middle segment and suspended the session for over five minutes.
When it did get going again, the Q2 pack was split between a few early runners attempting to get through on the mediums (all the drivers bar the AlphaTauri pair and George Russell, who stayed in the pits at the start of Q2, had initially headed out on that rubber) and others waiting until the final moments.
Hamilton led the way ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, and the leading trio were followed by Alex Albon, Lando Norris and Sergio Perez, who were all a big chunk behind the P1 benchmark and under pressure to switch to the soft tyres, which few drivers will want to use in the race give it is degrading by 0.5 seconds per lap after just one tour.
Albon and Norris did switched to the red-walled rubber, by they and Perez were only beaten by Ricciardo during the final laps in Q2, and so all the top ten runners will start on the medium tyres.
Ferrari pair Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc had also tried to get through on the mediums but were knocked out in P11 and P12 – what a difference a year makes after locking out the front row – with Lance Stroll P13 and blaming a “miscommunication” for his early exit.
As they were suddenly not under pressure from drivers behind go faster on the mediums, Albon and Norris were able to abandon their runs on the softs, which Russell used on his late solo flying lap to take P14, which means he will start ahead of Sainz.
In Q1, Russell escaped the opening segment for the ninth time in 2020, while Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen were shuffled down as drivers running behind them on the track right at the end of the opening segment improved.
Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, who said he “pushed too hard” trying to “enjoy it”, were knocked out in P18 and P19, with Nicholas Latifi bringing up the rear of the field.
All five of the drivers eliminated in Q1 set their best times on the final laps, but could do enough to join Russell in Q2.
So congratulations to Lewis Hamilton with another fine qualifying performance with pole position. After sealing the championship, his commitment continues with a brilliant drive to be the fastest.
Bahrain Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:27.264
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:27.553
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:27.678
4 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 1:28.274
5 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1:28.322
6 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:28.417
7 Esteban Ocon Renault 1:28.419
8 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:28.448
9 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1:28.542
10 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri-Honda 1:28.618
11 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:29.149
12 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:29.165
13 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1:29.557
14 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:31.218
15 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault –
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:29.491
17 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:29.810
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1:30.111
19 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1:30.138
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:30.182