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Verstappen on Pole for Bahrain Grand Prix in first qualifying of 2024

Updated: Mar 2

Written by Maria Fashchevskaya, Edited by Dan Jones and Owen Bradley

Credit: Scuderia Ferrari

The first race weekend of 2024 has started with some thrilling action around the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, The first race of the new Formula One season taking place tomorrow and with qualifying seeing Max Verstappen taking his first pole position of 2024, followed by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Mercedes’ George Russell.

Qualifying was unusually brought forward to Friday, with Ramadan beginning on Sunday the 10th, the same weekend as the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, meaning the weekend started with the first two session rounds on a Thursday, with Qualifying taking place on Friday night.

As the first qualifying round got underway, for the first six minutes of Q1 only saw four cars are out on track The two Ferrari's and Alpine's circling representative laps on medium tyres, as Sainz set the first lap with 1m 31.208s on the clock, with Leclerc half a tenth back on his teammate.

With 12 minutes to go, the field left their garages with huge traffic in the pitlane, disturbing Max Verstappen, requesting to overtake the slow-moving traffic. In the mean time, Pierre Gasly lost his first representative lap time due to track limits in turn 13. This turned out to be the first violation of track limits of the season, only six minutes into qualifying. Gasly returned to the track with teammate Esteban Ocon but neither could improve their times. “Disaster out lap”, Ocon stated on the team radio. A shocking end to qualifying for Alpine, as their drivers form the back of the grid in on Saturday's race.

Esteban Ocon on track in Sakhir. Credits: Andrej Isakovic / AFP (Getty Images)

With four minutes to go, several drivers were under threat, such as Lewis Hamilton in P13, with the Brit managing to squeeze through to tenth place on used tyres. Whilst Lance Stroll flew into an impressive second in Q1, eliminating both drivers in neon green – Guanyu Zhou and Valtteri Bottas. Both start 16th and 15th tomorrow, respectively. Logan Sargeant was the other driver eliminated in 18th.

Out in Q1: Bottas, Zhou, Sargeant, Ocon, Gasly.

With three minutes gone in Q2, the pitlane chaos restarted as all the drivers went out to set a time. Both Haas drivers impressively made it into Q2 – both on used soft tyres. The minute Magnussen set his time, he lost it due to track limits in turn 7. Initially, Ricciardo, Norris, Leclerc, Tsunoda, Albon, Hamilton, Sainz, Russell, and Piastri were on the used tyres with only the Red Bull’s and Alonso on fresh sets.

Lando Norris set a time of 1:29.941s on the used tyres. Before Verstappen and Perez charged into a one-two status for Red Bull, Perez laying 0.009s ahead of Norris after the first runs.

For the last runs of Q2, the Haas pair went out first, Hulkenberg leading his teammate out to go second – before Magnussen went. Leclerc topped the charts with a 1:29.165s, before the arrival of the chequered flag.

Yuki Tsunoda climbing in his car on quali-day. Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Russell flew into Q3 and pushed out Stroll in the Aston Martin, as Tsunoda dropped out of the Top 10 when Hamilton went through by a 0.007s margin to Piastri. The man from Japan was slightly frustrated on his lap on the radio. But the biggest surprise was Nico Hulkenberg in the Haas, impressively reaching Q3, with a margin of 0.685s to leader Leclerc. It was not all fairytales for Haas though, as Kevin Magnussen is out of qualifying, starting in P15 in the race tomorrow.

Knocked out: Tsunoda, Stroll, Albon, Ricciardo, Magnussen

With 12 minutes to go, all drivers were out on track, except the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso, being the last chance for every driver to get a good starting position on the grid in Saturday's Bahrain Grand Prix. It starting at 6 p.m. local time – 3 p.m. GMT.

Seven minutes to go and Verstappen topped the board with a 1:29.421s. With Alonso still remaining put in the Aston Martin garage, only attempting one run in Q3. And as others returned to the pits, Alonso seized the clear track ahead, finishing in a provisional third place with 0.121s to leader, Verstappen.

With two minutes to go in Q3, Russell grabbed onto third, whilst teammate Hamilton only ninth, a frustrating result in his final Bahrain Grand Prix with Mercedes. There were thoughts on how McLaren has improved their car, and a significant step up from last year's race, with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri coming seventh and eighth respectively.

Verstappen flies to pole in Sakhir. Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

On the last run, Max Verstappen topped his own time and fended off Charles Leclerc in second place by 0.228s. "It was a lot of fun actually, the track had a lot of grip but with the wind, it's been tricky to get the whole lap together. Q3 was difficult, but happy to be on pole. To be honest it was a little unexpected but in qualifying the car came to us”, stated the Dutchman.

George Russell finished third in an impressive outing of his own. “Huge amount of work – Lewis and I have been back on the simulator all week, we hope we haven't compromised the race pace", Russell said on F1TV post-qualifying.

Verstappen and Leclerc will complete the front row, followed by Russell and Perez on row two. Perez was an underwhelming fifth, 0.005s ahead of Fernando Alonso. The McLarens complete row four, followed by Hamilton and Hulkenberg to round out the Top 10.

Who will win the Bahrain Grand Prix tomorrow? Let us know your thoughts below.


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