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The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. Max Verstappen will be in pole position for the 2023 F1 Bahrain Grand Prix, courtesy of a 1:29.708 lap. Sergio Perez ended up right behind his teammate with a 1:29.846 on the final attempt.
F1 Bahrain Grand Prix Qualifying: Who will be on pole?
Max Verstappen will line up on pole for the 2023 F1 Bahrain Grand Prix. The defending champion laid down two sub-1:30 laps in Q3, leading his teammate Sergio Perez as Red Bull swept the front row for the season opener.
Ferrari swept the second row, with Charles Leclerc ahead of Carlos Sainz. Friday pacesetter Fernando Alonso wrapped up the top 5. Mercedes pairing George Russell and Lewis Hamilton will line up sixth and seventh, respectively.
Lance Stroll, onboard the second Aston Martin, qualified in eighth place while nursing a wrist injury. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg, making his return as a full-season driver, completed the top 10.
F1 Bahrain Grand Prix Q1: Sainz on top, Norris squeezes through
The first part of qualifying essentially turned into a 10-minute dash. Just under seven minutes into the session, Leclerc caused a red flag after some small pieces of his SF23 flew off on the main straight. Ferrari managed to tape everything together in an emergency solution, and the Monegasque was able to continue.
Once the session went back to green, it was the usual dash to the flag, especially towards the end of the field. Sainz was a comfortable first, leading Russell, Leclerc, Alonso and Stroll. The Red Bulls were further down the order, with Verstappen seventh and Perez tenth – but both well ahead of the cutoff.
The frantic battle for 15th place saw Lando Norris set a late flier to put himself 0.23 clear of Kevin Magnussen. But the best was saved for last, as Williams’ rookie Logan Sargeant set an identical laptime to match Norris. Since the British driver had set his laptime first, Sargeant’s late improvement left him in 16th place, narrowly missing out on a Q2 appearance.
Pierre Gasly will line up 20th and last after losing his final attempt due to a track limits infringement.
F1 Bahrain Grand Prix Q2: Leclerc leads with a late flyer, Hulkenberg advances
Unlike Q1, the second part of qualifying went without any significant incidents. Stroll set the first lap, but into the 1:32’s range. Verstappen followed it up with the then-fastest lap of the week, a 1:30.503.
Nico Hulkenberg scored an impressive eighth place. The German driver, who had previously driven as an emergency substitute for Racing Point and Aston Martin in 2020 and 2022, put an exclamation mark on his return as a full-time driver.
Esteban Ocon, in a relatively quiet weekend for Alpine, also got into Q3 by setting the ninth fastest time. A late improvement from Leclerc put the Monegasque on top with a 1:30.282, the new fastest lap of the weekend.
In a close fight for the tenth and final spot, Stroll found a few tenths to narrowly beat Norris, sending the two Aston Martins through into the third and final session.
F1 Bahrain Grand Prix Q3: Verstappen goes below the 1:29’s, leads all-Red Bull front row
It didn’t take long for Red Bull to reveal its real pace. Leclerc set the early pace, but Verstappen quickly jumped to the top with a 1:29.897, becoming the first driver to dip below the 1:30’s.
Surprisingly, Leclerc and Ferrari chose not to go for a second attempt, saving a set of tyres for Sunday instead. With this, Red Bull’s pole position was all but secured. Verstappen improved on his previous lap, setting a 1:29.708 to claim his 21st career pole position.
Perez slotted into second with a late improvement at the flag, setting a 1:29.846. The two Red Bulls were the only cars to lap into the 29’s. Leclerc ended up third, just under three tenths behind Verstappen. Sainz was fourth, 0.15 behind his teammate.
Alonso was fifth, ahead of Russell and Hamilton. The battle for the final top 5 spot promises to be an interesting one, with the three cars split by less than five hundredths. Stroll will line up in seventh place, ahead of Esteban Ocon. Hulkenberg sat out of Q3, and will line up in tenth as a result.