Max Verstappen Edges Out Charles Leclerc In Nail-Biting Bahrain Qualifying

Max Verstappen Edges Out Charles Leclerc In Nail-Biting Bahrain Qualifying
Max Verstappen Edges Out Charles Leclerc In Nail-Biting Bahrain Qualifying

Reigning Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen secured pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix after a nail-biting qualifying round, edging out Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by a razor-thin margin of 0.228 seconds, with Mercedes’ George Russell claiming the third spot on the grid.

In the decisive moments of qualifying, Verstappen had to dig deep to surpass Leclerc, who was a mere six-hundredths of a second shy of the Dutchman following their initial Q3 attempts. Verstappen accelerated his performance on his last lap, clocking in at 1:29.179. Although Leclerc had previously recorded a faster time in Q2 and was ahead after the second sector on his final attempt, he couldn’t maintain the advantage in the third sector, allowing Verstappen to clinch his third Bahrain Grand Prix pole position.

Bahrain Qualifying – How It Happened

As Q1 commenced, Ferrari quickly set the pace, with Carlos Sainz briefly leading with a time of 1:31.208, closely followed by Leclerc. Verstappen initially bided his time but then surged to the front with a lap of 1:30.031, outpacing McLaren’s Lando Norris, Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, and his own teammate Sergio Pérez.

Sainz, not to be outdone, broke the 1:30 barrier with a 1:29.900 lap, reclaiming the lead. Verstappen, despite a second attempt, did not better his time and settled for third as the session concluded, with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll moving up to second.

Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, along with Williams’ Logan Sargeant and the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, were among those who did not advance to Q2.

In Q2, Verstappen set an impressive benchmark with a lap of 1:29.374, distancing himself from Pérez and Norris. Before the final runs, Leclerc was in fifth, trailing Alonso, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, and Sainz. The Red Bull drivers opted out of their final Q2 laps, which allowed Leclerc to leapfrog into first with a strong last-minute lap of 1:29.165, with Sainz taking third behind Verstappen.

Yuki Tsunoda of Red Bull’s sister team was eliminated in P11, followed by Stroll, Alex Albon, Daniel Ricciardo, and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.

As Q3 got underway, Verstappen was swift to hit the track, setting a provisional pole with a lap of 1:29.421. Leclerc kept close, trailing by just a fraction of a second.

However, in the final stretch, Verstappen improved his time, and despite Leclerc’s promising pace, he couldn’t sustain it to the end, finishing two tenths behind Verstappen. Russell secured third for Mercedes, with Sainz in fourth.

Pérez’s time landed him in fifth, alongside Alonso. The McLarens of Norris and Piastri lined up behind them, while Hamilton and Nico Hülkenberg rounded out the top ten.

2024 Bahrain Grand Prix Qualifying – 5 Things We Learned

Max Verstappen – Pole

“It feels good to be back on pole today! Testing was really good and then this weekend was a bit more tricky for us; it was difficult to get the balance of the car right due to the tricky conditions with the wind being quite strong. Heading into qualifying, no one knew where we all stood and it was very tight, but this is exciting for the sport. We made some good improvements on the car and also improved performance from FP3 to qualifying and in Q3 we had a little bit more grip. Ultimately, I am pleased with the performance of the car and was happy to be back competing again today. Looking to tomorrow, I have a good feeling and am confident ahead of the race. We know it is about looking after the tyres in the best way possible as anything can happen in the race. We have a good race car and hopefully we can show the same performance as we did today.”

Charles Leclerc – 2nd

“It was a good qualifying after what has been quite a tricky weekend. We tried a few things in the free practice sessions and I found the sweet spot in qualifying. We went out on a set of used tyres at first in Q3 which compromised our rhythm a bit, before switching to a new set but overall, it feels like we are in a better place than we were at the start of last year. We have to wait and see where we stand in terms of race pace and Red Bull still seems to be a step ahead of the rest of the pack. I’ll take any opportunity we have.”

George Russell – 3rd

“Everybody at the factory has done a great job to give Lewis and I a car that we are much happier with. It’s a base that we can build upon. We’ve still got some catching up to do to be at the very front, but starting P3 for tomorrow’s race is a good place to be. It’s clear how tight it is between a number of teams, including ourselves, Ferrari, the McLarens, and Aston Martin. It is exciting knowing that if you put the whole lap together and find a tenth or two, that will add up to several positions on the grid.

“Since the test, the whole team has been working incredibly hard to fine-tune the set-up and make improvements. We’ve clearly made a big step forward in our single lap pace. Hopefully we haven’t compromised our race pace, but we will see tomorrow. I think we’re likely to be in a close fight for the podium positions behind Verstappen.”

Carlos Sainz – 4th

“It was a super tight session and all in all it hasn’t been a bad first qualifying for the season. In Q3 we were not able to really put everything together, but we are in a decent spot for tomorrow’s race in P4. After testing we are confident that we have improved our race pace compared to the beginning of last year, so I’m looking forward to finally going at it tomorrow and finding out where we are on pace. Let’s kick-off the season with a good one!”

Sergio Perez – 5th

“My lap wasn’t as clean as it could have been into turn one and that means two or three places when everything is so tight is up there. It was tricky, we were learning throughout qualifying, it was the first time we had run such a light car. We didn’t get the maximum because we lost a set of soft tyres for Q3 on an aborted lap in Q2, that was a negative but a positive is that the car was performing well in qualifying. We have some work to do but what matters is tomorrow, and we are on the right side of the grid so we should be able to have a strong start. A lot of teams saved the hard tyre but we saved those softs and that means we will be on different strategies out there. The target tomorrow will be to make progress and onto the podium, things are really close and it is going to be a nice battle ahead.”

Fernando Alonso – 6th

“The AMR24 felt good in Qualifying – a reflection of the work we put in over testing to configure the set up.

“I had a strong flying lap in Q1 and was happy with my pace, but then got caught in some traffic at Turn 13 in my final Q2 run. That can be the difference between progressing [into Q3] or not when it’s a such a tight field and every tenth matters.

“Such a close pack should make for interesting race tomorrow; I’ll do my best to get a good start and we’ll go from there.”

Lando Norris – 7th

“The car felt great all through qualifying and there’s a lot of potential. I didn’t get the best lap in at the end, but it’s a long race and there are plenty of overtaking opportunities. We’ll see what we can do to go forwards.”

Oscar Piastri – 8th

“P8. A significant improvement on last year. I did struggle with the balance all session and felt a fair way off compared to yesterday. It came together a bit more on the last lap in Q3, but it was a bit tricky. However, going into tomorrow, I think we can be in the mix. The grid is quite tight and there isn’t much in it, so it won’t be easy, but we’ll see what we can do.”

George Russell – 9th

“I struggled throughout Qualifying as we have in the past couple of years. The car is feeling really great, but I just went a little bit in a direction to help my race pace. I wasn’t feeling as comfortable with that yesterday so that was the focus. I’ve definitely sacrificed more single-lap performance than I hoped too but I hope that pays off tomorrow. It’s a lot of work to do to get past a lot of quick cars that are starting ahead of me, but I’m sure it’ll be fun.

“George’s position and the pace he showed today really highlights, and is a real testament, to the team. It shows just how hard everyone has worked over the winter. It’s amazing for us to have a car that we can fight with. It reignites the fire and the flame within us drivers. For me today, Bono and everyone else did a great job.”

Nico Hulkenberg – 10th

“At the end of last year, I still managed to put it into Q3 a few times and we knew from last season qualifying was our strength. It looks like we’ve not lost it, but we need to fix the race day issue from before. Obviously, that’s the most crucial point for us this season, and we pretty much only focused on that in testing, and also in the winter to dial-out that characteristic that we had last year. It feels better but tomorrow is the real test to see if it actually is better, so exciting times ahead.”

2024 Bahrain Grand Prix Qualifying Results

1Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing1:29.179
2Charles LeclercFerrari1:29.407+0.228
3George RussellMercedes1:29.485+0.306
4Carlos SainzFerrari1:29.507+0.328
5Sergio PérezRed Bull Racing1:29.537+0.358
6Fernando AlonsoAston Martin1:29.542+0.363
7Lando NorrisMcLaren1:29.614+0.435
8Oscar PiastriMcLaren1:29.683+0.504
9Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:29.710+0.531
10Nico HülkenbergHaas1:30.502+1.323
11Yuki TsunodaRB1:30.129+0.950
12Lance StrollAston Martin1:30.200+1.021
13Alexander AlbonWilliams1:30.221+1.042
14Daniel RicciardoRB1:30.278+1.099
15Kevin MagnussenHaas1:30.529+1.350
16Valtteri BottasSauber1:30.756+1.577
17Zhou GuanyuSauber1:30.757+1.578
18Logan SargeantWilliams1:30.770+1.591
19Esteban OconAlpine1:30.793+1.614
20Pierre GaslyAlpine1:30.948+1.769
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