Qualifying report: Max Verstappen takes pole for 2021 season opener after beating Mercedes in Bahrain

Red Bull seemed keen to change the order with breakneck pace in testing and they delivered on that promise in the first qualifying session of the year as Max Verstappen took a sensational pole position, beating world champion Lewis Hamilton by a staggering number of 0.388 seconds..

Verstappen has marked himself as the man to beat throughout the weekend in Bahrain, the Dutchman leading the times in all three practice sessions and used that form to finish his performance in each segment of the qualifying.

He outscored Hamilton by 0.023 seconds after the first few races in Q3 and while Hamilton improved on his second timed lap, chaser Verstappen was also quicker with purple times in all three sectors to advance to consecutive pole positions for the first time. in his carrer.

Mercedes may have been outclassed, but with Valtteri Bottas in third place, he confirmed that the Silver Arrows had made great strides in preseason testing and are very much in the fight with Red Bull for loot, as F1 enjoyed of two genuine. team battle for pole position.


Red bull racing
1: 28,997

1: 29,385

1: 29.586

1: 29.678

1: 29.809

Charles Leclerc set one of the best laps of his career to go fourth fastest for Ferrari, just one tenth behind Bottas’s Mercedes, suggesting that the Prancing Horse has made impressive progress over the winter after its worst season in four. decades.

Pierre Gasly will start fifth, matching his best performance in Bahrain, after a brilliant performance during qualifying. The AlphaTauri driver is one of only four drivers in the top 10 who started the race in the media, so he is in a very strong position in terms of strategy for Sunday’s race.

Daniel Ricciardo beat his McLaren teammate Lando Norris to sixth place, with Carlos Sainz unimproved in his second race and finishing eighth, half a second behind Leclerc. His compatriot Fernando Alonso started racing on his return to F1 with Alpine after two years out of the sport with ninth place as Lance Stroll closed out the top 10 for Aston Martin.

It was not such good news for his new teammate Sebastian Vettel, who was eliminated in the first part of qualifying and will start 18, while Sergio Pérez’s second Red Bull failed to enter Q3 and finished 11th.

Sebastian Vettel was knocked out in Q1 in his first appearance with Aston Martin


Q1 – Verstappen and Tsunoda star when Vettel is sent off

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

But Yuki Tsunoda arguably stole the thunder with a jaw-dropping lap that put him second fastest, a fraction ahead of world champion Lewis Hamilton in a wildly close session with the top three split by just a tenth of a second.

It wasn’t the best of Nikita Mazepin’s debuts, the Haas driver turning twice, the last one in the closing seconds of qualifying, causing the yellow flags to appear at Turn 1 and forcing several drivers back slightly.


Nikita Mazepin spun twice in his first qualifying session

The main victims were Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel, who lost time there and also when the yellow flags were called by a Carlos Sainz that was slowing down, which fell at a snail’s pace due to an engine problem before starting up again.

As a result, both were kicked out of the standings, Ocon finished 16th, with Sainz 15th, and Vettel a frustrating 18th in his Aston Martin debut.

Nicholas Latifi also missed the cut, but his Williams teammate George Russell made his way into the top 10 with his latest effort to pass. Mick Schumacher comfortably edged out his Haas Mazepin teammate to finish 19th.

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


George Russell went to Q2 with a great lap at the Williams

Q2 – Ferrari runs smooth to go faster, while Mercedes shows pace

The top three looked familiar after the first few races in Q2, with Hamilton leading Verstappen and Bottas, but the timesheet was turned upside down as several teams opted to run the softs, while Mercedes, Red Bull and AlphaTauri they stayed with the media.

Leclerc was fastest first, but was soon usurped by his Ferrari teammate Sainz for the narrowest of margins – just 0.001s. They occupied the top two spots when the checkered flag fell, with Hamilton clinging to third and Norris using the softs for P4.

While Pierre Gasly reached the top 10 in the middle run with a phenomenal lap, his rookie teammate Tsunoda couldn’t get the rubber to work and was knocked out. He will start 13th, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Russell.


Both Ferraris reached Q3 for the first time since last year’s British Grand Prix.

However, the real shock was Perez’s first swim, as the Mexican had his first lap eliminated due to the limits of the track and then failed to pull the performance out of the middle like his teammate Verstappen did.

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

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

Bahrain GP 2021 standings: Sergio Pérez angry about knockout in Q2

Q3: Verstappen and Hamilton deliver an epic battle

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

Verstappen set the starting pace, but his lead was just 0.023 seconds over Hamilton. They rebooted to carry on, with Hamilton getting ahead of Verstappen, right behind his teammate Bottas to offer him the potential of a tow.

Hamilton improved and established purple sectors. But each time he did, Verstappen was better and that gave the Dutchman his fourth career pole position, denying Mercedes pole position in the opening race for the first time in the hybrid era and setting up an appetizing showdown in the race. Sunday.

Bahrain GP 2021 qualifying: Max Verstappen overtakes Mercedes in pole position

The key quote

“We already had a great week of testing and of course there are no guarantees, but then we came back for the race weekend and the whole week so far, I think the car has been running really well and it’s been really nice to do. lead”. said Max Verstappen, the kangaroo.

“With the wind changing a lot in each session, it is not easy to set up the car, but everything worked perfectly in qualifying, very happy with the pole position.”

Whats Next?

The Bahrain Grand Prix starts at 1800 local time, which is 1500 UTC. Verstappen leads the way, but does he have a car capable of holding off a two-front attack from Mercedes?

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