Verstappen sets first pole position of the season followed by the two Mercedes; 7 teams in top 10

It’s the fourth time the Dutch driver will start first, and a serious demonstration of Red Bull’s 2021 pace

By Yuri Coghe
@yuricoghe
Max Verstappen set a perfect lap (fastest on all three sectors) on the Bahrain’s GP qualifying (Photo: Red Bull/Twitter)

Red Bull was able to carry the momentum built in the pre-season testing and free practices in Bahrain into the season’s first qualifying.

Max Verstappen is in pole position for Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, having set a perfect lap (fastest on all three sectors) of 1:30s499. It’s the fourth time the Dutch driver will start first, and a serious demonstration of the Austrian team’s 2021 pace.

“We had a great testing week but there are no guarantees it translates to race weekends,” said Verstappen after the qualifying. “The car has been working really well and of course I’m happy with pole. We need to get a clean start (tomorrow) and take it from there.”

Mercedes came right after, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas second and third, 0s388 and 0s589 slower than the pole position time. Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly were fourth and fifth, seeing four teams and three engine suppliers in the top 5.

“I absolutely gave it everything I had, but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough,” said defending champion Hamilton. “There’s always more, but it was the best I could do, I got everything I could from the car.”

“We’re not quite where we want to be – hopefully we can improve a little for tomorrow,” added teammate Bottas.

Carlos Sainz Jr. got the other Ferrari in the top 10 by setting the eighth fastest lap. He’ll start behind the two McLarens of Daniel Ricciardo, sixth, and Lando Norris, seventh. Seven of the 10 F1 teams made it to the top 10 in the first qualifying section of the season.

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll completed the top 10, coming ninth and tenth. Their teammates, Esteban Ocon, 16th, and Sebastian Vettel, 18th, respectively, endured a disappointing section and were eliminated on Q2 – just like Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez. The Mexican will start P11 on Sunday.

Much like Ferrari and AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo was another team to show signs of improvement. Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Räikkönen will start on P12 and P14 tomorrow. Yuki Tsunoda, despite an impressive lap on Q1, is in 13th position for Sunday.

Canadian Nicholas Latifi will start on 17th, two positions below teammate George Russell. The Williams drivers can celebrate starting the season not being the worst-performing car on the grid – something the team had to deal with for the last three seasons. Haas appears to have taken that unfortunate position, with rookies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin lining-up at the back of the grid in this order.

The 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix starts at 11 AM Eastern Time on Sunday.

Check out the full classification below

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