Verstappen wins qualifying battle from Hamilton to take pole in Bahrain

Max Verstappen faced off the challenge from seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton to score the first pole position of the new Formula 1 season, as the Red Bull driver grabbed the Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying by over 0.3 seconds.

The Red Bull Racing star was in the zone as he was fastest in all three practice sessions at the Sakhir circuit, and Hamilton was fighting Max for the top position through Q3, with the latter twice taking provisional pole before being upstaged.

Hamilton’s first Q3 run of one minute, 29.549 seconds ended up 0.023 seconds behind Verstappen’s one minute, 29.526 seconds.

On the second Q3 runs, Hamilton improved to a one minute, 29.383 seconds, but was not able to improve his personal best time in the middle sector.

Verstappen, by contrast, swept to the session’s fastest times in all three sectors on his final run, as he took pole with a time of one minute, 28.997 seconds.

Valtteri Bottas improved on his final run in Q3 to take third, with Charles Leclerc fourth for Ferrari.

Leclerc, like Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso, only did on run in Q3 and used his one shot to knocked AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly back to fifth position.

Daniel Ricciardo beat his new McLaren teammate Lando Norris to sixth, with Carlos Sainz eighth for Ferrari.

Sainz had had a nervous moment at the end of Q1 when his engine appeared to cut out on his final run after he’d clattered over the kerbs at the exit of Turn 2 and was forced to trail slowly back to the pits.

Alonso’s Formula 1 qualifying return resulted in ninth position, with Stroll shuffled back to tenth after completing his sole Q3 run in the gap between the majority of the runners doing their first and second laps.

Verstappen, the two Mercedes drivers and Gasly will start the race on the medium tyres after getting through Q2 with a significant strategy advantage over the rest of the top ten, as the soft tyres the rest will use are likely to degrade heavily in the opening stint.

Sergio Perez’s first qualifying at Red Bull did not go to plan, as he was knocked out by Norris’s final improvement at the end of Q2.

The Sakhir Grand Prix winner had had his first Q2 time deleted for running too wide and falling foul of the track limits policing at the exit of the Turn 4 wide right-hander, while running on the medium tyres.

Perez went again on the mediums at the end of Q2 and even though he went over a tenth faster than the deleted lap, other cars improving behind him meant he was shuffled out of the top 10.

Antonio Giovinazzi scored his best dry qualifying result since the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix with P12, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, who also could not get through Q2 on the medium tyres.
The AlphaTauri driver had finished Q1 in P2 but could not replicate his teammate’s effort on the yellow-walled rubber and was knocked out in P13.

Kimi Raikkonen finished P15, ahead of George Russell, who got out out of Q1 for the tenth time since the start of last season.

In Q1, a late Turn 1 spin for Haas driver Nikita Mazepin, who also spun off at Turn 13 at the start of the final sector in the early minutes of the opening segment of qualifying, cost two high-profile drivers.

A late improvement for Stroll meant Esteban Ocon was knocked out in P16 and left to rue the spun Haas in front of him at the start of his final lap – but this was still his best time and Ocon may be vulnerable to a post-qualifying stewards’ investigation that will examine all times set under the yellow flags that Mazepin’s off brought out.

Nicholas Latifi ended up P17 after setting his best time in Q1 ahead of Mazepin’s incident, while Sebastian Vettel’s difficult start to life at Aston Martin continued as he was knocked out in P18 – another driver who came across Mazepin’s car at Turn 1 on their final laps, and Vettel was came across yellows for Sainz’s slow travelling car exiting the Turn 8 hairpin.

Mick Schumacher’s improvement on his final Q1 lap boosted him ahead of Mazepin on the all-Haas final row of the grid.

So an exciting qualifying session with Verstappen beating the 2020 champion Hamilton to pole position. The fight between Red Bull and Mercedes is going to be intense and dramatic. This is brilliant racing!

Qualifying positions, Bahrain Grand Prix:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:28.997
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:29.385
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:29.586
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:29.678
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:29.809
6 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:29.927
7 Lando Norris McLaren 1:29.974
8 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:30.215
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:30.249
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:30.601
11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:30.659
12 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1:30.708
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:31.203
14 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 1:31.238
15 George Russell Williams 1:33.430
16 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:31.724
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:31.936
18 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:32.056
19 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:32.449
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas 1:33.273

4 thoughts to “Verstappen wins qualifying battle from Hamilton to take pole in Bahrain”

  1. Qualifying review as reported by

    Red Bull looked set to shake up the order with some cracking pace in testing and they delivered on that promise in first qualifying session of the year, as Max Verstappen took a sensational pole position, thumping world champion Lewis Hamilton by a staggering 0.388s.

    Verstappen has marked himself out as the man to beat all weekend in Bahrain, the Dutchman topping the times in all three practice sessions and building on that form by winding up his performance through each segment of qualifying.

    He pipped Hamilton by 0.023s after the first runs in Q3 and though Hamilton improved on his second timed lap, the chasing Verstappen was going quicker too with purple times in all three sectors to move back ahead for back-to-back pole positions for the first time in his career.

    Mercedes may have been pipped, but with Valtteri Bottas slotting into third, it confirmed that the Silver Arrows had made big gains from pre-season testing and are very much in the fight with Red Bull for the spoils, as F1 enjoyed a genuine two-team battle for pole position.

    Charles Leclerc set one of the best laps of his career to go fourth quickest for Ferrari, just a tenth behind the Mercedes of Bottas, to suggest the Prancing Horse have made impressive progress over the winter following their worst season for four decades.

    Pierre Gasly will start fifth – equalling his best-ever Bahrain performance – after a brilliant showing throughout qualifying. The AlphaTauri driver is one of only four drivers in the top 10 to start the race on the mediums, so is in a very strong position in terms of strategy for Sunday’s race.

    Daniel Ricciardo beat his McLaren team mate Lando Norris to sixth, with Carlos Sainz failing to improve on his second run and ending up eighth, half a second behind Leclerc. His countryman Fernando Alonso hit the ground running on his return to F1 with Alpine after two years away from the sport with ninth, as Lance Stroll closed out the top 10 for Aston Martin.

    It wasn’t such good news for his new team mate Sebastian Vettel, who was dumped out in the first part of qualifying and will start 18th, while the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez failed to make Q3 as he ended up 11th.

    Q1 – Verstappen and Tsunoda star as Vettel gets dumped out

    Max Verstappen picked up where he left off, having swept the board in all three free practice sessions, as he set a scintillating pace under the lights in Bahrain to top the times in the opening segment of qualifying.

    But Yuki Tsunoda arguably stole his thunder with an astonishing lap that put him second quickest, a fraction ahead of world champion Lewis Hamilton in a nail-bitingly close session with the top three split by just a tenth of a second.

    It wasn’t the finest of debuts for Nikita Mazepin, the Haas driver spinning twice – the last one coming in the dying seconds of qualifying, which brought out the yellow flags at Turn 1 and forced a number of drivers to back off slightly.

    Chiefly affected were Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel, who lost time there and also when the yellow flags were called upon for a slowing Carlos Sainz, who slowed to a snail’s pace with an engine issue before getting going again.

    As a result, they were both booted out of qualifying, Ocon ended up 16th, with Sainz scraping through in 15th, and Vettel a frustrating 18th on his Aston Martin debut.

    Nicholas Latifi also missed the cut, but his Williams team mate George Russell bolted into the top 10 with his last effort to ease through. Mick Schumacher comfortably outpaced his Haas team mate Mazepin to end up 19th.

    Knocked out: Ocon, Latifi, Vettel, Schumacher, Mazepin

    Q2 – Ferrari run softs to go quickest, as Mercedes show pace

    The top three had a familiar look after the first runs in Q2, with Hamilton heading Verstappen and Bottas, but the timesheet was turned on its head as several teams opted to run the softs, while Mercedes, Red Bull and AlphaTauri stuck with the mediums.

    Leclerc went quickest first, but he was soon usurped by Ferrari team mate Sainz by the narrowest of margins – just 0.001s. They occupied the top two spots as the chequered flag fell, with Hamilton holding onto third and Norris using the softs for P4.

    While Pierre Gasly made it into the top 10 shoot-out on the mediums with a phenomenal lap, his rookie team mate Tsunoda couldn’t quite get that rubber to work and got knocked out. He’ll start 13th, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Russell.

    The real shock, though, was Perez’s early bath, the Mexican having his first lap deleted because of track limits and then failing to get the performance out of the medium like his team mate Verstappen did.

    He’ll start 11th, best-placed with free choice of tyres, one place ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi as Alfa Romeo confirmed the belief that they are in a much stronger position than they were at the end of last year.

    Knocked out: Perez, Giovinazzi, Tsunoda, Raikkonen, Russell

    Q3 – Verstappen and Hamilton deliver epic battle

    F1 has been crying out for a two-team, head-to-head fight for the title for years – and on the basis of Saturday’s qualifying session, it looks like we might have it in 2021.

    Verstappen set the early pace, but his advantage was just 0.023s over Hamilton. They reset to go again, with Hamilton heading out ahead of Verstappen, just behind his team mate Bottas to offer him the potential of a tow.

    Hamilton improved, and set purple sectors. But each time he did, Verstappen went one better and that gave the Dutchman his fourth career pole position, denying Mercedes pole in the opening race for the first time in the hybrid era, and setting up a mouth watering showdown in Sunday’s race.

  2. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton missed out on pole position by a close margin and the seven-time world champion admitted he was “absolutely gave it everything” he had in qualifying. has the news story.

    Lewis Hamilton said he gave everything he could in Formula 1 qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix, but Red Bull was simply too quick.

    The world champion ended up snatching second spot on the grid for the F1 season opener, but was powerless to prevent Max Verstappen earning pole position by 0.388 seconds.

    And while Mercedes has made good progress since its troubled pre-season testing weekend, Hamilton reckoned there was nothing else he could have done to overhaul Red Bull.

    “Congratulations to Max. He did such a great job, so fast on that last lap,” said Hamilton. “I absolutely gave it everything I had, but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough.”

    Hamilton praised the steps forward that Mercedes had made since testing, but was aware of the task that his team now faced to find more speed.

    “There is always more, but that was the best that I could do, that is for sure,” he said. “I got absolutely everything I could from the car.

    “I think we did a really good job from testing to come here. The lads back of the factory they’ve really done such an amazing job.

    “And our aero analyst, Kim, she’s been giving such great information for us to be able to prove and get the car where we needed it to be closer to Red Bull.

    “I think to be that close, considering I think in testing we were quite a bit behind, [was good].”

    Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas said wasting a set of softs in Q1 put him on the backfoot for the final qualifying runs, as he had only a single set of new tyres for Q3 where he ended up third.

    However, he thinks there is still everything to play for in the race, especially if he and Hamilton work together against Verstappen.

    “It wasn’t too bad, but obviously not where we want to be,” he explained. “But at least starting third, and from there, anything is possible and obviously the aim is only for tomorrow.

    “Of course now we have two cars in the mix at the front against Max, so I’m sure we can cooperate and do something good.”

  3. Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel was left feeling “upset and angry” after Bahrain Q1 exit in the Aston Martin. has the details.

    Aston Martin Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel was left “upset and angry” after going out in Q1 of Bahrain GP qualifying, in which the German saw his second flying lap ruined by yellow flags.

    During an extremely tight first qualifying phase, Vettel needed a second flyer to claim a spot in Q2.

    Vettel’s final attempt was thwarted by two yellow flags however, which meant the four-time world champion couldn’t improve his personal best and languished down in 18th place.

    First Vettel had to slow down in Turn 1 for spinning Haas rookie Nikita Mazepin, who had just jumped the queue and passed the Aston Martin on the warm-up lap.

    He then came across another yellow flag in Turn 8 for Carlos Sainz, who momentarily lost drive on his Ferrari.

    Afterwards, Vettel admitted he was upset with how his first competitive session for Aston Martin unfolded but added there was no point in panicking about his poor grid position.

    “If I panicked now it wouldn’t help,” Vettel told Sky Sports F1. “For sure I’m upset and angry – it was not our fault in a way – not to make it through, but we have to take it and do what we can to prepare for tomorrow.”

    When asked by about what happened from his perspective, Vettel said he barely made it across the line in the first place for his second timed lap due to being overtaken in the final sector.

    “It was a mess in the last sector warming up, I just made it across the line with less than one second and then I had two yellow flags, so not much we could do at that stage.”

    Despite a botched qualifying effort, Vettel said he felt more at home in his new car compared to practice, but admitted his team is not “where we want to be” after teammate Lance Stroll could only manage 10th on the grid in Q2.

    “I wasn’t very happy in practice, I was feeling wise a lot happier in qualifying but obviously I didn’t get a lap in,” Vettel added.

    “We are not where we want to be. And on top of that I think I’m still learning, we are still learning. We are trying a lot of things to understand the car further.

    “There was potential to be a lot faster. I think we still have a lot of work ahead of us.

    “Hopefully tomorrow we have a good race. I think we can come up quite a bit and we’ll see what the day brings.”

    Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer reckoned Vettel lost “over four tenths of a second” due to the double yellow flags.

    “It was two yellow flags in Turn 1 and in Turn 8, so he naturally lifted, lost over four tenths of a second,” said Szafnauer.

    “It’s a long season, and we’ve got a lot of running to do yet. So it’ll be okay. He’s still buoyant about the race tomorrow.”

  4. Red Bull Racing’s Christian Horner commented that floor damage on Max Verstappen’s RB16B cost him 0.1 seconds per lap. Despite the issue, Max was able to take pole position. has the news story.

    Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says Max Verstappen carried damage worth approximately 0.1 seconds for the rest of Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying after his Q1 kerb strike.

    Verstappen, who went on to claim the first pole position of the 2021 season ahead of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, went hard over the kerbs on the exit of the Turn 2 left-hander on his first run of qualifying.

    The Dutchman radioed his Red Bull team to ask for his rear floor to be checked, with TV images capturing several carbon strakes bouncing behind the car as he accelerated out of Turn 3 and onto the Bahrain track’s second straight.

    When asked about the incident in the post-qualifying press conference, Verstappen said: “I ran a bit wide – I think there was a little bit of damage, but it was still fine”, but Horner revealed that he did pick up laptime-costing damage.

    Speaking to Sky Sports F1, the Red Bull team boss said: “He smacked the bottom of the car pretty hard, because they run so low, that we’ve lost a couple of bits of carbon under the front of the car there.

    “Maybe he was carrying about a tenth’s worth of damage through the rest of the sessions.”

    Horner also outlined his thoughts on how the damage enhanced his view of Verstappen’s performance in the following two segments of qualifying, on his way to taking his fourth career pole by 0.388s

    “If you think in the first run of Q1, when it’s not that pressured, then you think ‘oh no!’,” said Horner. “Not to big up that damage, but he’s handled that incredibly well.”

    Verstappen’s Bahrain pole is his second in succession after he topped qualifying for the final race of the 2020 season.

    This ends a trend in recent seasons of Red Bull starting campaigns slower than it would like in comparison to rival squad Mercedes and having to catch up with aggressive car development.

    Verstappen said to start a season with pole rather than end one was not a feeling of “relief”.

    “That’s what you always aim for, right?” he added. “Of course the last few years it hasn’t really materialised.

    “But in a way the regulations haven’t really changed a lot and I think we knew what our weaknesses were last year. And it seems like we addressed them so far at the beginning of the year.

    “Of course [I’m] very happy with that. Great start for us but of course no guarantees for the future.”

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