Hamilton grabs Bahrain Grand Prix pole

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

5 thoughts to “Hamilton grabs Bahrain Grand Prix pole”

  1. Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by Formula1.com.

    Max Verstappen hinted he could be a thorn in the side of Mercedes in Bahrain in final practice, but when it mattered the Silver Arrows came to the fore, with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton dominating every segment of qualifying to take a stunning pole position.

    The Mercedes driver was pegged to just 0.146s by Verstappen after the first runs in Q3, suggesting there could be a tight battle. But Hamilton improved by another quarter of a second on his final run, pushing pole out of reach of his rivals to take his 98th career P1 start.

    His team mate Valtteri Bottas popped up into second, the Finn at a loss to explain why he simply wasn’t a threat to Hamilton throughout the session, but he did at least ensure Mercedes lock out the front row for the fifth consecutive season in Bahrain and 75th time in the team’s history.

    Verstappen was forced to settle for third, though he can take comfort from starting on the cleaner side of the grid, the Dutchman suggesting the team’s greater focus in setting the car up was on the race, with tyre degradation expected to be crucial on Sunday evening.

    He was backed up by Red Bull team mate Alex Albon, who equalled his best-ever start, in fourth, albeit six tenths of a second off the pace of his team mate, with Racing Point’s Sergio Perez popping up into fifth, having reached Q3 for the first time since 2014.

    Daniel Ricciardo was slowest of all after the first runs, but he protected his tyres on a slow out lap before pumping in the sixth fastest time, qualifying in the top six for the fifth time in the last six Grands Prix, and outqualifying his team mate Esteban Ocon – who ended up seventh – for the 13th straight race, albeit this time by only 0.002s.

    Pierre Gasly was eighth, with AlphaTauri team mate Daniil Kvyat 10th, as the Italian team reached Q3 with both cars for the second time in three races, with Lando Norris the best-placed McLaren in ninth, after his team mate Carlos Sainz suffered a mechanical problem that caused a spin and ended his qualifying early in Q2.

    It was another difficult day for Ferrari as both Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel were knocked out in Q2, with the German one place ahead of his team mate in 11th.

    Q1 – Hamilton quickest as Stroll and Albon impress

    Hamilton set an impressive pace as qualifying got going under the lights in Bahrain, as Mercedes demonstrated why they are still the ones to beat despite already having sealed both championships.

    Their junior driver Russell was also in great form, using his final run in Q1 to leap out of the drop zone and comfortably into safety, ending up nearly a second quicker than Williams team mate Nicholas Latifi.

    Stroll, who made some set-up changes between final practice and qualifying, pumped in the second fastest time with moments of the session to go, while Albon looked strong, too, having put Friday’s crash behind him.

    There wasn’t such good news for Alfa Romeo, as while Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen went quicker on their final runs, so did their immediate rivals, which shuffled them back into the drop zone. They were eliminated, along with the Haas duo of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean – the latter having failed to exit Q1 in his last six attempts – and Latifi.

    Knocked out: Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Magnussen, Grosjean, Latifi

    Q2 – Ferrari fail to make the cut as Sainz spins out

    Carlos Sainz looked to have the pace to make it comfortably into Q2, but he wasn’t afforded the chance to deliver on that promise after he lost the car under braking into Turn 1, as the rear wheels axels appeared to lock.

    The Spaniard couldn’t get his McLaren going again, forcing a red flag, which in turn forced everyone to back out of their first timed laps. When the session got going again, Verstappen set the early pace, before being usurped by Hamilton.

    Gasly could only go 10th fastest with his final time, but with both Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc plus the Racing Point of Lance Stroll failing to better him, the AlphaTauri scraped into the final segment of qualifying.

    Interestingly, all of the top 10 managed to get through on the medium tyre, which was the preferred start tyre as they bid to avoid running the soft in the race.

    Knocked out: Vettel, Leclerc, Stroll, Russell, Sainz

    Q3 – Hamilton stretches his legs as Bottas finds his form

    Hamilton looked at ease as he comfortably pumped in the quickest time of the session so far on his first run on the soft tyres in Q3, and at that point, only Verstappen looked to be in a position to spoil the party.

    But the seven-time world champion pulled even further clear next time around, while Bottas managed to improve to slot into second and add a rosy tint to Mercedes’ day as they locked out the front row.

    With Verstappen slotting into third, the one-two-three was the same for the ninth time in the last 12 races, albeit not always in that order. It was Red Bull’s first P3 in Bahrain since the event became a night race in 2014.

    Albon was an encouraging fourth, the Thai driver showing strong consistency throughout the three segments of qualifying, ahead of Perez and Ricciardo and Ocon.

  2. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel admitted the Scuderia must be “sly as a fox” to score in Bahrain after being knocked out in qualifying. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    Sebastian Vettel feels Ferrari needs to be “sly as a fox” with its Formula 1 tyre strategy to score points in Bahrain after failing to reach Q3.

    Vettel qualified 11th at the Bahrain International Circuit on Saturday night, narrowly missing out on a place in Q3 after struggling on his final lap.

    It marked the 11th race in a row where Vettel has failed to make it through to Q3, with the German sounding frustrated over team radio upon learning of the result.

    But Vettel did manage to outqualify Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, who could only finish 12th overall.

    “It was very tough and tight,” Vettel said. “I think Sector 2 wasn’t ideal, I was too close to George [Russell], maybe that didn’t help, and I was struggling after the stop and go in the final sector to get the fronts really to work.

    “Maybe there was a little bit more [time], so Sector 2 was for sure not super clean. Overall I think it’s more or less where we belong this weekend.

    “Tomorrow is the race, and in the race it’s not about one lap, so we’ll see what we can do.”

    Drivers have been struggling with tyre management throughout the Bahrain weekend so far, prompting all of the top 10 to decide to qualify on the medium compound tyre.

    Vettel said there would be a big “tyre battle” for Ferrari, meaning it had to be canny with its strategy if it wished to score points.

    “This track is very rough, very tough on tyres, and that will be the key tomorrow to manage those,” Vettel said.

    “I think if we are sly as a fox, we have a good chance. If not, then it will be a long race. I still believe that there is a good chance to score some points.”

    Leclerc felt there was “definitely a bit more” time to find during his lap after ailing to his second straight Q2 exit.

    “You can always do better, but I think that’s the case for everyone,” Leclerc said.

    “At Turn 4 I think I lost quite a bit, but yeah, it’s like this, we’ll start P11 and P12, the first ones to have a free tyre choice.

    “I don’t know how much we can benefit from that, because I’m pretty sure that starting on the medium for the top 10 is not so bad.

    “But yeah, we did our best, and today that’s what was possible.”

  3. It was a case of what might have been for Carlos Sainz in Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying, with the Spaniard left unable to show what he was capable of after his McLaren dropped out of the session in spectacular circumstances.

    Sainz was sitting a strong fifth on the timesheet in Q2 when his car developed an as-yet undiagnosed issue at the worst possible point – as he attempted to slow from 300kph for the tight Turn 1. With the rear axle of his MCL35 appearing to lock, Sainz was spun around before coming to a halt and bringing out the red flag.

    In a season where he has already experienced his fair share of technical woe, the 26-year-old, who has just three races with McLaren remaining before joining Ferrari, was understandably glum about what had happened.

    Asked if there was anything he could have done, he replied: “Nothing. You obviously get out there at 300kph and you hit the brakes and the rear brakes locked completely, I don’t know what happened.

    “We don’t know exactly what’s the cause of the problem but very disappointed because I had just come through Q1 with only one set of tyres, I had just saved some softs for later in the quali and that set of mediums, it’s so important this weekend, it looks like it’s completely flat-spotted and I’m not going to be able to use [them].”

    With McLaren fighting tooth and nail for P3 in the constructors’ championship with Renault and Racing Point, Sainz will now start P15 for the race – six places back from team mate Lando Norris who made it to Q3. And the Spaniard wasn’t feeling optimistic about his chances.

    “Very disappointed, if there’s something that could not happen today it’s to destroy that set of mediums, because it’s going to cost us in the race,” he said.

    “Problem is, we’ve all been trying to save those harder tyres for the race and at the moment I qualified P15 and I don’t have any harder tyres. One of the harder tyres I had saved, so we’ll see, we can get it replaced or we can get it rebalanced, but if there was one weekend where this couldn’t happen it’s this one so I’m very disappointed.”

    Sainz, who is currently P7 in the drivers’ standings, one position and one point ahead of Norris, entered the race looking to reverse a terrible recent run in Bahrain, which includes five consectuive pointless races in Sakhir.

    Source: Formula1.com

  4. Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas was left feeling “surprised” by his qualifying gap to Lewis Hamilton. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Valtteri Bottas says he and Lewis Hamilton will fight for victory in Formula 1’s Bahrain race with “quite different set-ups” and is “surprised” by the qualifying gap between the pair.

    Bottas qualified 0.289s behind Hamilton after gaining on Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on the final runs in Q3 and will start alongside his Mercedes teammate on the front row for Sunday’s race.

    Mercedes’ weekend so far has featured an unusual programme for an event that has had its full allocation of track time, as the team opted not to do any set-up work in Friday practice to spending more time learning the prototype tyres Pirelli brought to be tested in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

    After explaining that this meant Mercedes had “compromised performance for this weekend”, Bottas revealed “we ended up with quite different set-ups, with Lewis” in the post-qualifying press conference.

    He added: “We’ll see if that makes any difference tomorrow, but he’s had a really good weekend overall, every session.

    “All the time I’ve had the feeling that I have the speed but I haven’t quite put it all together. It felt like I got it together at the end, but obviously it wasn’t enough.”

    Bottas said it was “not at all” unusual for the two Mercedes drivers to take different set-ups.

    “There’s been times it’s been nearly identical, there’s been times it’s been different,” he continued. “That’s how it goes.”

    Speaking about how he felt after completing his final run in Q3 to overhaul Verstappen, Bottas said: “The end of the Q3 lap was actually really good – it felt like there was not much more to really find.

    “That was the feeling when I crossed the line. So, I was pleased with that, but obviously it wasn’t enough for pole. I was quite surprised when I saw the gap [to Hamilton].”

    When asked by Motorsport.com how the decision not to complete any set-up work on Friday had changed the approach Mercedes had had to do ahead of qualifying, Bottas explained: “You definitely lose some time for the set-up work.

    “But it’s nothing new really this season – we’ve had races [where] it’s been raining on Friday, or the race weekend with just one practice.

    “But looking back at this weekend [so far], yeah, if I’d had one more session I would probably have tried something different based on the result today in qualifying.

    “But the rule is when you go to do qualifying, you can’t change the car any more – that is what it is. But I just really hope it is good for the race trim.”

    Hamilton feels he was not “too compromised” on set-up ahead of qualifying by focusing on the 2021 rubber in Friday practice, but reckons the decision has left Mercedes unsure where it stands on race pace against Red Bull.

    “We haven’t had any real long runs on the medium or the hard tyre, so it will be interesting to see how that goes tomorrow,” he said.

  5. Red Bull Racing’s Alex Albon wants to be “thorn in Mercedes’ strategy” in Bahrain. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    Alexander Albon hopes he can be a “thorn in Mercedes’ strategy” after qualifying fourth for the Bahrain Grand Prix, matching his best Formula 1 starting position.

    Albon bounced back from a hefty crash during second practice at the Bahrain International Circuit on Friday to snare fourth place on the grid in qualifying.

    It marked Albon’s best qualifying result since the Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello in September, and saw him lock out the second row of the grid for Red Bull alongside teammate Max Verstappen.

    Asked if the result was a relief following his FP2 shunt, Albon said he was always feeling in a good rhythm with the Red Bull RB16 car in Bahrain.

    “Truthfully speaking, FP1 was pretty decent, and FP3 was pretty decent, so fourth didn’t seem unrealistic,” Albon said.

    “It felt like something which I was thinking was definitely achievable before qualifying. Of course it was nice to have it, and the car has been feeling good this weekend.

    “Especially since today really, it’s kind of clicked a bit more. Obviously P4 is nice.

    “Hopefully we can be a thorn in Mercedes’ strategy and see what we can do.”

    Red Bull was forced to change the chassis on Albon’s car due to the severity of his crash in practice, but the Anglo-Thai driver said it did little to knock his confidence.

    “Especially in a team like Red Bull, the quality is really high, and you’re not going to get big differences,” Albon said when asked by Motorsport.com to explain the differences felt after a chassis change.

    “At least on my side, nothing. It’s more just set-up and feeling, and on top of that, confidence. You want to get on it quickly.

    “But truthfully, on the confidence side, I was quite happy with it. It was a silly mistake to begin with yesterday, so I knew that I could put it behind me pretty quickly and focus on today.”

    Albon finished six tenths of a second off teammate Verstappen’s laptime, but explained he found it hard to get back up to speed on the soft tyres in Q3 after running mediums for his best Q2 time.

    “I kept having these little snaps just where you don’t want it, and I had to drop my minimum speed quite a lot,” Albon explained.

    “There was obviously bit less track time than we would have liked, and just a bit of catch-up with the new car and getting up to speed with it.

    “It wasn’t bad. Everyone wanted mediums, and then we put softs on the second run of Q2, and I think I did my last time doing a lap on the softs was in Q1.

    “So it was quite a long time since we did a run on a new set of tyres.”

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