Verstappen takes sensational Bahrain pole position

Ahead of Hamilton and Bottas

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By Olivier Ferret

27 March 2021 - 17:12
Verstappen takes sensational Bahrain

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen set blistering pace at the Bahrain International Circuit to claim pole position for tomorrow’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. The Dutch driver beat Mercedes’ defending seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton by almost four tenths of a second and finished nearly seven tenths ahead of the Briton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Verstappen went into qualifying having topped all three practice sessions and the superior pace of his new RB16B car was evident from the opening runs of Q1. With his first lap of the session he powered to the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:30.499, a little over a tenth ahead of Yuki Tsunoda of AlphaTauri and 0.118s in front of Hamilton.

Further back, the drop zone ahead of the final runs featured Alpine’s Esteban Ocon followed by Williams’ Nicholas Latifi and George Russell and then the Haas cars of Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher.

Only Russell managed to avoid the exit door and the Williams driver’s early final run saw him jump to P7 before a slide back to 13th place at the end of the session and progress to Q2.

Russell’s early final flyer proved wise as in the closing moments Nikita Mazepin spun going into Turn 1 and that brought out the yellow flags. When the final runs were completed Ocon who later said he had lost half a second due to the yellow flags went out in P16 ahead of Latifi. However, Q1’s major casualty was Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel who exited in P18, again because of the yellow flags. Haas’ Mick Schumacher went out in P19 ahead of team-mate Mazepin.

At the start of Q2 Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren and AlphaTauri took to the track on medium tyres. Verstappen set an opening time of 1:30.318 to take an early P1 but that was swiftly bypassed by Hamilton who set a time of 1:30.085. Behind them Sergio Perez, in his first qualifying session with Red Bull, opened with a lap of 1:30.715 but the Mexican’s time was soon deleted for exceeding track limits and he fell into the drop zone ahead of the final runs.

The Mexican went out on another set of medium tyres but as quicker laps were posted by soft-tyre runners Perez dropped back and he eventually exited the session in P11 ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, Tsunoda, the second Alfa or Kimi Räikkönen and Russell.

At the start of Q3 Verstappen took top spot in the first runs of the top-10 shootout, setting a provisional pole time of 1:29.526, just two hundredths of a second ahead of Hamilton.

Then, as the final runs began, Hamilton initially edged ahead with a lap of 1:29.385. Verstappen, though, was finding more and more time. A session-best first sector led to a purple time in the middle part of the lap and when the Red Bull driver crossed the line he claimed pole almost four tenths of a second ahead of Hamilton and almost seven tenths ahead of third-placed Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes. Fourth place in qualifying went to Leclerc, with the Monegasque finishing ahead of Gasly, Ricciardo, Norris, Sainz, the returning Alonso and Stroll.

Pos.DriverTeamQ1 timeQ2 timeQ3 time
01 Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda RB16B 1:30.499 1:30.318 1:28.997
02 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W12 1:30.617 1:30.085 1:29.385
03 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes W12 1:31.200 1:30.186 1:29.586
04 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF21 1:30.691 1:30.010 1:29.678
05 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda AT02 1:30.848 1:30.513 1:29.809
06 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes MCL35M 1:30.795 1:30.222 1:29.927
07 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes MCL35M 1:30.902 1:30.099 1:29.974
08 Carlos Sainz Ferrari SF21 1:31.653 1:30.009 1:30.215
09 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault A521 1:31.863 1:30.595 1:30.249
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes AMR21 1:31.261 1:30.624 1:30.601
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
11 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Honda RB16B 1:31.165 1:30.659
12 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Ferrari C41 1:30.998 1:30.708
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda AT02 1:30.607 1:31.203
14 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Ferrari C41 1:31.547 1:31.238
15 George Russell Williams Mercedes FW43B 1:31.316 1:33.430
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
16 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault A521 1:31.724
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes FW43B 1:31.936
18 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes AMR21 1:32.056
19 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari VF-21 1:32.449
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas Ferrari VF-21 1:33.273

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