Reigning double world champion Max Verstappen beat teammate Sergio Perez to a Red Bull one-two in qualifying at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Q1 – Ferrari lead the way in red-flagged session
After the final practice session had taken place in sunny conditions, the sun dipped below the horizon and the floodlights began to come on when the qualifying session kicked off.
The first session started with the AlphaTauri and Ferrari drivers kicking off the on-track action. However, the session was soon red-flagged after a piece of bodywork had flown off Leclerc’s car for good measure.
With the Race Director Niels Wittich not happy with pieces of bodywork lying on the track, the session was halted to recover the carbon bits of the Ferrari SF23. Before the lights went green again, a queue had lined up at the end of the pit lane with everyone seemingly eager to complete a timed lap.
Although he was struggling for a perfect balance in the practice sessions, Carlos Sainz lit up the timing screens, setting the benchmark of the session with a time of 1m30.993s, pipping Mercedes’ George Russell, who was also struggling for pace throughout the previous part of the race weekend.
Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez did not show their hands in the first qualifying segment while seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton ended up down in P13.
Pierre Gasly had his lap time deleted for track limits, meaning that the Frenchman will start last on his Alpine debut.
Eliminated in Q1: Logan Sargeant, Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen, Oscar Piastri, Nyck de Vries.
Q2 – Ferrari continue to lead in close fight
When the second qualifying session got underway, there was no initial movement in the pit lane with all drivers just waiting for the right moment to head out.
The clock was ticking down, and Stroll, who made his return to action following his bike accident, broke the deadlock by heading out on scrubbed tyres.
Stroll’s initial time did not last long as Verstappen clocked in a time of 1m 30.503s which was fractionally quicker than last year’s pole position. Perez, Alonso, Russell and Hamilton followed with Leclerc and Sainz ending the first run down in sixth and seventh, albeit the Ferraris were on used tyres.
Albon was the first driver to head out for his final run in Q2. The Thai-British driver set a promising time in the first sector, but he was struggling with his Williams FW43, skating wide into the run off area.
Leclerc was one of the last out and he was in serious need to improve his time as he dropped outside the promotion zone. The Monegasque went top with a time of 1m30.282s with his teammate Sainz taking third place.
Eliminated in Q2: Lando Norris, Valtteri Bottas, Guanyu Zhou, Yuki Tsunoda, Alexander Albon.
Q3 – Verstappen and Red Bull show their hand
Ferrari and Red Bull sent their drivers quite early in the session with Verstappen setting the initial benchmark with a time of 1m29.897s, beating Leclerc by just a tenth of a second.
It later turned out that it was the only run for the Monegasque driver as he wanted to pile up a fresh set of C3s for tomorrow’s race. Sainz, Perez and Verstappen went out for a second run with all of them finding significant improvement on their second fresh set of softs.
The Dutchman delivered a rapid 1m 29.708s to secure his 21st pole position while his team mate Perez managed to beat Leclerc for P2.
Following his mistake on his first hot lap in Q3, Sainz put everything together in the dying minutes of the session to climb up to P4 to secure a Ferrari second row for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Alonso managed to live up to the hype, qualifying fifth for his first race with Aston Martin. Although the first two qualifying segments were promising for the Mercedes duo, Russell and Hamilton were unable to challenge for the top positions, ending up behind Alonso in P6 and P7 respectively.
Stroll finished in P8 ahead of Esteban Ocon, who secured the ninth starting position for Alpine with F1 returnee Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the top ten for Haas.
Commenting on his first pole position in 2023, Verstappen said: “I think it’s been a bit of a tough start to the weekend, yesterday and today, not finding my rhythm. Luckily in qualifying, I think we managed to put the best pieces together,” said pole-sitter Verstappen.
“Of course, I’m very happy to be on pole, but for the whole team, coming off last year and again having such as strong car, with Checo up there as well, it’s amazing. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I was actually positively surprised being on pole, after the struggles I had in practice. That is positive and normally our race car is better, so let’s see”, the double world champion concluded.
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda Rbpt||1:31.295||1:30.503||1:29.708||15|
|2||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda Rbpt||1:31.479||1:30.746||1:29.846||15|
|5||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:31.158||1:30.645||1:30.336||15|
|8||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:31.184||1:31.127||1:30.836||18|
|9||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:31.508||1:30.914||1:30.984||15|
|10||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Haas Ferrari||1:31.204||1:30.809||DNF||17|
|11||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:31.652||1:31.381||13|
|12||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:31.504||1:31.443||12|
|13||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:31.615||1:31.473||12|
|14||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Honda Rbpt||1:31.400||1:32.510||15|
|15||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||1:31.461||DNF||8|
|16||2||Logan Sargeant||Williams Mercedes||1:31.652||6|
|17||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:31.892||6|
|18||81||Oscar Piastri||Mclaren Mercedes||1:32.101||7|
|19||21||Nyck De Vries||Alphatauri Honda Rbpt||1:32.121||9|
|20||10||Pierre Gasly||Alpine Renault||1:32.181||6|