A dramatic qualifying session in Bahrain ended with Charles Leclerc on pole. He denied Max Verstappen his first pole with the number one on his car and teammate Carlos Sainz.
It was a session which saw the Mercedes cars still struggling, confirming their claims that they weren’t sandbagging. It could be a long season for the defending Constructor’s Champions if they can’t get on top of their problems sharpish.
Special mention has to go to Valtteri Bottas who was just behind his former teammate, Lewis Hamilton. Outperforming the man that took his seat at the Silver Arrows shows a clear message of Bottas’ skill and determination to prove Toto Wolff wrong.
McLaren Woes Continue
The Ferraris dominated, taking a 1-2 for the session with Leclerc going quickest with Verstappen third. Bottas was on hand to show the Mercedes team what they were missing going fourth fastest with Kevin Magnussen completing the top 5. A great start to qualifying for the Alfa Romeo and Haas garages!
Mercedes finished 9-10 in the session, with George Russell going quicker on an additional run. The biggest shock was seeing the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo knocked out in Q1. He was joined by Nicholas Latifi, Lance Stroll, Nico Hulkenberg and Yuki Tsunoda.
The woes continued for McLaren who had multiple problems throughout testing. Adding to that, Ricciardo missed some testing time after a positive Covid test.
Max Verstappen Responds
The defending World Champion topped the timesheets in Q2, narrowly pipping Sainz. Charles Leclerc was just ahead of Sergio Perez and the two Mercs.
McLaren’s problems continued as they had no driver in the top 10 shootout as Lando Norris couldn’t find the pace required.
He was joined by Esteban Ocon, Mick Shumacher, Alex Albon and Guanyu Zhou in being eliminated ahead of Q3. That means Magnussen took his Haas into the top 10 shootout, with Bottas making it too like he did every race he competed in for Mercedes. His five year streak continues!
Ferrari Back on Top – Charles Leclerc on Pole
First blood went to the Ferraris in Q3 who took a 1-2 on the first runs with Sainz quickest. It then went Red Bull 3-4 with Verstappen leading the pair.
Charles Leclerc snatched provisional pole from his teammate, with Sainz not able to respond. Verstappen jumped Sainz for P2 with Perez stuck in P4. No one was able to top that time of Leclerc who secured pole number 10 of his career.
Hamilton finished P5 in the Mercedes as the best of the rest. Bottas, Magnussen and Fernando Alonso separated the Silver Arrows with Russell 9th.
Charles Leclerc was delighted with pole position: “It feels good! We were quite hopeful that this would be an opportunity to be back in the front. We’re starting from pole, so I’m very happy.”
Max Verstappen felt happy with his car: “I think we have a good car and a good race car. It was a good start to the new era. It was a really close battle with Carlos and Charles.”
Carlos Sainz hailed the improvements he made over the weekend: “I’ve been more than half a second behind all weekend, so to be even fighting for pole position today was good news for me.”
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