Bahrain Grand Prix: Max Verstappen storms to pole position ahead of Charles Leclerc

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen stormed to pole position at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday.

Max Verstappen has taken pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday, beating Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc to P1 following a tense session on Friday.

The Red Bull driver beat a congested chasing pack behind him, with his pole lap in fact slightly slower than Leclerc managed in Q2, but it proved enough for the three-time reigning World Champion to put himself at the front of the grid come lights out.

He will be joined by Leclerc on the front row on Saturday, with George Russell and Carlos Sainz behind them on the second row and Sergio Perez rounding out the top five.

Max Verstappen takes pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix

A muted start to Q1 saw the majority of drivers looking to go straight onto soft tyres, with a big performance gap to the medium tyres and a tightly-bunched field.

That was evidenced by the top 15 drivers being within a second of Carlos Sainz’s benchmark of a 1:29.909 following their first runs, with both Saubers and Alpines in the drop zone along with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.

When the final runs played out, improvements from a host of drivers dropped Lewis Hamilton into the elimination zone, but the seven-time World Champion improved to 10th to secure his place in Q2.

But the end of Q1 saw the entire field covered by only a second, and it’s a back-row lockout for Alpine with Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly behind Logan Sargeant’s Williams, with Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas also knocked out and separated by one thousandth of a second.

While plenty of the remaining drivers opted for used tyres in the first runs of Q2, the Red Bull drivers did not and Max Verstappen laid down a gauntlet of a 1:29.374, some half a second clear of Sergio Perez in second heading into the final part of that session.

It was all-important for the drivers to set the best lap they could, then, to put themselves into Q3 as the track evolved and the temperature cooled in Bahrain.

Sainz went to within two tenths of Verstappen’s time, before Leclerc took two tenths out of the three-time World Champion’s best time to set up what looked like an intriguing battle for pole position.

Nico Hulkenberg caught the eye by going sixth fastest for Haas, while Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo missed out for RB, with a lap time deletion for Kevin Magnussen leaving him in P15, while Lance Stroll and Alex Albon also dropped out in Q2.

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From there, it was onwards to Q3 and a mixture of new and used tyres were used for the drivers for their opening runs, with Verstappen going 0.059s ahead of Leclerc – with George Russell, Sainz and Lando Norris all within a quarter of a second.

This left one final run for the remaining drivers, with multiple teams seemingly in the hunt for pole position in the first qualifying session of the season at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso had the track to himself as he took his only run in Q3, putting himself provisionally third fastest and only 0.121s behind Verstappen’s benchmark in his Aston Martin.

The others were still to come however, with the track ramping up all the time under the lights in Sakhir.

The McLaren drivers could not improve enough to trouble the top three, despite being incredibly closely-matched with the Ferrari and Mercedes drivers.

Verstappen, aided by a tow from Oscar Piastri on the start/finish straight, improved further to a 1:29.179, with his best effort putting him two tenths clear of Leclerc on the front row.

Russell and Sainz will fill the second row come lights out on Saturday in a hugely bunched chasing pack, with Perez and Alonso on the third row – with only 0.143s separating second and sixth on the grid.

Bahrain Grand Prix 2024: Qualifying classification

1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull 1:29.179
2 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.228
3 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.306
4 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.328
5 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull +0.358
6 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.363
7 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.435
8 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.504
9 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.531
10 Nico HULKENBERG Haas +1.323
11 Yuki TSUNODA RB 1:30.129
12 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +0.071
13 Alexander ALBON Williams +0.093
14 Daniel RICCIARDO RB +0.149
15 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas +0.400
16 Valtteri BOTTAS Kick Sauber 1:30.756
17 Guanyu ZHOU Kick Sauber +0.001
18 Logan SARGEANT Williams +0.014
19 Esteban OCON Alpine +0.037
20 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.192

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