Verstappen seizes pole in Bahrain GP qualifying
By Mat Coch
Sunday 5th March, 2023 - 3:11am
Max Verstappen has claimed pole position in a competitive qualifying session for tomorrow’s F1 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Verstappen had been the favourite heading into the session following a strong pre-season, though faced competition from Ferrari, Mercedes, and Aston Martin in the lead into Qualifying 3.
When it came to the crunch, however, the Dutchman delivered on his potential to record the 21st pole position of his career.
Sergio Perez will start second with Charles Leclerc third, one spot ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz.
Fernando Alonso is the lead Aston Martin in fifth, one spot ahead of George Russell.
The two Scuderia AlphaTauris were the first out on track as the session commenced, followed by the Ferraris and Nico Hulkenberg for Haas.
As he began his first flying lap, a piece of Charles Leclerc’s car broke free as he accelerated down the pit straight.
More broke flew off as he rounded Turn 1, forcing him to aborted the lap.
Yuki Tsunoda posted the first time of the session – a 1:32.132s – before the red flag was shown for the debris left behind by the Ferrari at the first corner.
A number of drivers had ventured out just as the red flag was shown, including Oscar Piastri, his McLaren team-mate Lando Norris, and the Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
None of them had begun a timed lap, circulating back around to the pits where they awaited the resumption of proceedings.
The stoppage lasted eight minutes, getting going again with 13 minutes to run in the first phase of the three-part session.
Where previously just a handful of cars headed out, the entire of the field soon filed out of pit lane once the green light was shown.
To that point, only the two Scuderia AlphaTauris had recorded a lap – Carlos Sainz’s initial effort had been deleted for track limits at Turn 8.
When the dust settled followed the flurry of laps, it was Sainz who topped the pile.
His 1:30.993s was just 0.064s quicker than George Russell while Leclerc was third. Max Verstappen was fifth, one spot back from Fernando Alonso.
McLaren, meanwhile, occupied 17th and 18th, Norris ahead of Piastri, the latter with a 1:32.633s.
In reality, they were both one spot further back after Stroll had a lap time deleted for track limits at Turn 13.
With just over three minutes remaining, every driver barring Sainz headed back out for another lap.
Stroll managed a time good enough for fifth, 0.191s off Sainz’s best to that point.
Norris improved to move himself up to 13th and out of the elimination zone, while Piastri climbed to 17th with his final effort.
As the chequered flag fell, Hulkenberg rose to sixth, while missing the cut were Logan Sargeant, who set an identical time to Norris, Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen, Piastri, and Nyck de Vries.
That changed soon after with Gasly having his time deleted for track limits at Turn 15, dropping the Frenchman to 20th.
Stroll and Alonso set the running as Qualifying 2 commenced, the Canadian logging a 1:31.184s before his two-time world champion colleague managed a 1:31.158s.
Predictably, times tumbled quickly with Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, and Zhou Guanyu all going quicker in the opening moments.
However, it was only with eight minutes remaining that the heavy hitters began to show their hand, with Mercedes shooting to the top with Hamilton on 1:30.901 and Russell second with 1:31.057s.
Their time at the top was short as both Red Bull drivers usurped them, Verstappen lowering the benchmark to 1:30.503s.
Alonso sat fifth fastest, 0.5s slower than Verstappen, while Stroll’s early effort had seen him slide down to 12th.
The Canadian found himself being pushed back down the pit lane by his team after he’d missed the scales on the way into the lane.
Alex Albon had not set a lap in the early minutes and ran instead off-sequence, giving him the track to himself.
However, a mistake at Turn 4 saw him run wide, prompting him to abandon the lap.
Again, the track was a hive of activity inside the final three minutes with all but the two Red Bulls and Albon’s Williams on track.
It saw Leclerc rise to the top of the timesheets, while Sainz and Alonso split Verstappen and Perez, who had been first and second ahead of the final runs.
Stroll escaped the cut, while Norris, Bottas, Zhou, Tsunoda, and Albon all fell short, the latter having not set a time.
Verstappen was the first on track as the final phase of qualifying got underway, followed by team-mate Perez and the two Ferraris.
The Dutchman immediately lit up the timing screens, going fastest of anyone through the first split and carrying that momentum to the second.
He stopped the clock at 1:29.897s, the first lap of the weekend to dip below the 90-second mark.
Leclerc was not far behind, the Ferrari driver setting an even 1:30.000 to sit second, 0.131s ahead of Perez in third.
The Monegasque’s lap could have been better – a moment at Turn 7 seeing the back end of the SF-23 step out.
Both Mercedes stayed in the sheds to begin with, heading out only as Verstappen and Leclerc were on their way back to the pits.
Aston Martin adopted the same approach, as did Hulkenberg, while Ocon remained in the garage until three minutes remained.
Alonso recorded a personal best on his flying lap, but could do no better than fourth best, 0.439s away from Verstappen’s earlier effort.
Russell was fifth fastest with his lap, 0.443s away from the pace-setting Red Bull while Hamilton was seventh 0.487s away from pole.
In the Ferrari garage, Leclerc climbed from the car with two minutes remaining, his session done, while Hulkenberg had his lap time deleted.
Verstappen began his final push lap with 30 seconds remaining, team-mate Perez just behind as the last car on track.
The 2022 world champion was down to the first split but gained time through the middle of the lap to improve to a 1:29.708s.
Perez rose to second while Leclerc will head an all-Ferrari second row.
Results: Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:29.708|
|2||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||1:29.846||0.138|
|5||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin||1:30.336||0.628|
|8||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||1:30.836||1.128|
|12||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Sauber||1:31.443||1.735|
|13||24||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo Sauber||1:31.473||1.765|
|14||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Scuderia AlphaTauri||1:32.510||2.802|
|19||21||Nyck de Vries||Scuderia AlphaTauri||1:32.121||2.413|
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