Verstappen claimed pole with broken floor

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen claimed pole position for the Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix despite the floor of his Red Bull RB16B sustaining damage in the first phase of the qualifying session.

Verstappen qualified 0.4s faster than Lewis Hamilton at the end of the session to claim top spot.

It marks the first time in his career he’s claimed two successive pole positions, and the first time since 2013 that a Red Bull will start from pole for the opening race of the season.

The Dutchman’s final effort saw him fastest in all three sectors around the 5.412km circuit to stamp his authority on proceedings.

However, it was not plain sailing, and a moment in Qualifying 1 threatened to derail the session.

“He smacked the bottom of the car pretty hard and, because they run so low, we’ve a lost couple of bits of carbon under the front of the car there,” team boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports.

“It may be he’s carrying about [a] tenth’s worth of damage through the rest of the session.”

Verstappen was seen running wide over the kerbing on the exit of Turn 2 towards the end of the first part of the elimination qualifying session.

His car kicked up a shower of sparks in the process, with a piece of carbon seen flying from the underside of his car.

“He definitely felt that,” Horner said of the damage.

“I mean, he’s obviously sitting on it as he’s hurtling over the curb, so yeah, he responded very well.”

Hamilton will start alongside Verstappen on the front row for Sunday’s race, with Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes lining up third.

The result highlights how close the two leading teams are, with Red Bull appearing to have nosed ahead and into the role of favourites for the moment.

“The whole team’s worked tremendously hard over the winter to get ourselves into this position,” Horner said.

“Honda have done a stellar job as well.

“Mercedes, look at what they’ve turned up [with]. Everybody was writing them off over the last couple of weeks and they’re right there, and they’re going to be right there in the race again tomorrow.

“So they’re going to be a massive challenge for us to beat them but you know hopefully we’re starting from the best possible place.”

Red Bull is allowed to replace the floor on Verstappen’s car prior to the race, with a like-for-like replacement.

The Bahrain Grand Prix gets underway at 02:00 AEDT on Monday morning.

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