Verstappen takes season opener pole position

Three-time world champion Max Verstappen took his first pole position of the new 2024 Formula 1 season, beating Charles Leclerc by 0.228 seconds to mark his place at the front of the Bahrain Grand Prix grid.

The Red Bull driver had taken a back seat during the opening two stages of qualifying but, when it came down to Q3, he set a demanding benchmark with a time of one minute, 29.421 seconds – and then beat his own effort despite the final runs to settle on a time with one minute, 29.179 seconds.

This was slower than Leclerc’s time from Q2, but the Ferrari driver was unable to replicate that effort in the final runs of the Q3 session, and could only manage one minute, 29.407 seconds as Verstappen claimed the best first sector time by two tenths.

George Russell overcame a brief scare in Q2, where he was on the edge of the elimination zone, to find form in Q3 and worked his way up to third on the grid with a time of one minute, 29.485 seconds.

Although Russell was placed under investigation for exceeding the maximum delta time in Q1, no further action was taken and he should retain his starting position on the second row in Saturday’s race.

This put him ahead of Carlos Sainz, as the Ferrari driver looked fast in Q1 but was unable to retain a similar advantage over his Scuderia teammate Leclerc. Regardless, he will start ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, as he moved up to fifth late on in the Q3 session.

Fernando Alonso will start from sixth, having only completed a single flying lap in Q3 after decided to run in the gap. This lap put him third among the initial runs, but he fell back as the majority of the top ten runners improved in their second efforts.

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri locked out the fourth row for McLaren, ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who was unable to deliver on the pace he’d shown earlier in the Bahrain weekend and looked out of sorts compared to teammate Russell.

Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten for Haas, although could not replicate or improve upon the time he had set in Q2.

Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll dropped out of a potential Q3 by late laps by Russell and Hamilton, who delivered under the pressure of needing to find a lap on the second attempt having been stuck in the bottom five.

Although the likes of Tsunoda, Stroll, and Alex Albon all had moments within the top ten, further improvements – including Leclerc’s ride to the top of the order and Hulkenberg’s journey into sixth – shuffled them down the grid order.

Daniel Ricciardo dropped out behind Albon, as Kevin Magnussen could not join his Haas teammate Magnussen in the top ten.

Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu had both moved their Saubers out of the Q1 drop zone after their second runs, but soon drifted back into the bottom five when other drivers on the edge of elimination had improved.

This also cost Logan Sargeant who had been P12 after the initial runs, but the Williams driver could not improve on his final lap and fell to P18.

This was a nightmare situation for Alpine following a disappointing testing, with both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly at the bottom of the timesheets throughout the session – with Gasly the only driver outside of a second’s gap to Carlos Sainz’s Q1 headline time.

So an expected, the pre-season favourite is quickest with the nearest challenger alongside. With Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc on the front row, the race is going to be exciting.

Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:29.179
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:29.407
3 George Russell Mercedes 1:29.485
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:29.507
5 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:29.537
6 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:29.542
7 Lando Norris McLaren 1:29.614
8 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:29.683
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:29.710
10 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:30.502
11 Yuki Tsunoda RB 1:30.129
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:30.200
13 Alexander Albon Williams 1:30.221
14 Daniel Ricciardo RB 1:30.278
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:30.529
16 Valtteri Bottas Sauber 1:30.756
17 Zhou Guanyu Sauber 1:30.757
18 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:30.770
19 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:30.793
20 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:30.948

5 thoughts to “Verstappen takes season opener pole position”

  1. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen grabbed pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix in a tight first qualifying session of the 2024 season, edging out Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc and Mercedes’ George Russell for top spot.

    Verstappen produced a 1m 29.421s with his first Q3 run and worked his way down to a blistering 1m 29.179s during the second runs to ultimately finish two-tenths clear of Leclerc, with Russell a tenth further back in third position.

    Carlos Sainz made it two Ferraris in the top four places, with Sergio Perez unable to produce more than fifth aboard the other Red Bull, lapping almost half a second slower than Verstappen across their decisive laps.

    Fernando Alonso led Aston Martin’s charge in sixth, ahead of McLaren pair Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton having to settle for ninth in the second of the Mercedes machines.

  2. Charles Leclerc has explained how Ferrari ‘lost the rhythm’ late in qualifying for the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix to help Red Bull Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen land pole position.

    Three-time world champion Verstappen will begin his title defence from first place on the grid in Sakhir after his 1min29.179sec final flying lap eclipsed main threat Leclerc by 0.228s.

    Leclerc explained: “In Q2, I did a [1m29.1s lap] which was more or less the lap time that Max did in Q3. So, it was in the car.

    “Just, I think we lost a little bit the rhythm with a used set of C3 [tyres] in Q3. Then you have to re-adapt to the new tyres, and I lost a little bit there. But all in all, it’s been a positive qualifying.”

  3. George Russell reckons the Mercedes Formula 1 team has taken a “big step forward” with its one-lap pace after scoring third in qualifying for the 2024 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

    Russell heralded the Silver Arrows for having made significant progress with its qualifying performance thanks to the simulator work completed following the pre-season test.

    “Lewis and I have been back on the simulator as well, fine-tuning the set-up, making some improvements.

    “We’ve obviously made a big step forward in single-lap – in the qualifying pace. We hope we haven’t compromised the race pace at all. I think it’ll be a close fight between everybody… other than Max.”

  4. Fernando Alonso says it was a “massive surprise” to qualify sixth for Formula 1’s Bahrain Grand Prix after having doubts about his Aston Martin’s one-lap pace.

    In an extremely tight Q3 field, Alonso’s 1m29.542s yielded him sixth on Saturday’s grid.

    “It was a nice surprise to find ourselves competitive,” Alonso grinned. “After winter testing we had some doubts in terms of one lap pace.

    “In free practice, it was a different car this weekend, we felt more competitive. But normally we run maybe more engine [power] or less fuel or whatever and we find reality sometimes in qualifying, so we were very cautious into qualifying about our possibilities.

    “We found ourselves quite competitive in Q1, in Q2 and then in Q3. Now we are in the mix. Within one tenth we are together with Ferrari, in front of Hamilton, together with the McLarens. So it’s a massive surprise and extremely happy.”

  5. Bahrain Grand Prix polesitter Max Verstappen says Red Bull’s continual improvements to its RB20 Formula 1 car rather than a sudden performance breakthrough yielded the fastest time in qualifying.

    Verstappen says that the circuit conditions had ensured that Red Bull had its work cut out pulling together a good set-up for qualifying, but incremental improvements throughout Thursday and Friday were the key to the team’s build-up to pole.

    “I think if you look at the weekend so far, it didn’t come easily to us,” Verstappen explained.

    “Testing was very good, but then it was very windy so far this weekend and it was just, I think, a bit more difficult to get the balance of the car together.

    “It was just continuous work all the way to qualifying, and I do think that we made some good improvements over the car, and I think that made us then do the lap for pole.”

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