Max Verstappen takes first pole of 2024 as Lewis Hamilton praises W15 – F1 news round-up

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen took pole position in Bahrain. F1 news

Max Verstappen beat Charles Leclerc and George Russell to pole position in Bahrain.

We’ve got you covered with the best of the F1 news and reaction from Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying from Sakhir, with Max Verstappen having taken pole position.

The new season will get underway in earnest on Saturday, but the cars took to the track for the first time in anger in qualifying on Friday under the lights in Bahrain.

With additional reporting on the ground from Thomas Maher in Sakhir, here’s a look at the big F1 news from the day.

Max Verstappen takes pole position for Bahrain Grand Prix

Max Verstappen put in an strong lap to see off Charles Leclerc in Q3 to take pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday.

Interestingly, Verstappen’s pole time was actually slightly slower than Ferrari driver Leclerc’s best Q2 effort, but that matters little when the pressure is on in the final part of qualifying.

Only 0.143s covered P2 and P6 on the grid, with Leclerc set to line up ahead of George Russell, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso on the first three rows before the lights go out.

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

Lewis Hamilton hails Mercedes W15 pace as ‘big improvement’

Despite qualifying down in ninth, Lewis Hamilton revealed that he took a significantly different setup approach to Russell that he hopes will help him in race trim.

On the benefits of his car in general, Hamilton explained that the Mercedes W15 is a good step up compared to the cars that have come in the last two years.

“The car is really fantastic,” he said to media including PlanetF1.com after the session.

“It’s a really big improvement from previous years – a lot more stable, a lot more fun to drive, but we still have work to do.

“To be three-tenths off, for George to be three-tenths off Red Bull is incredible. It shows what’s possible and I think we’ve just got to just continue to add performance.

“If that’s our platform from here, we can definitely chase through the rest of the season.”

Read more: Fired up Lewis Hamilton sings W15 praises: ‘A really big improvement’

Fernando Alonso labels lofty qualifying placing ‘massive surprise’

Placing his Aston Martin sixth on the grid for Saturday’s race, after setting his lap on a completely empty track and arguably in sub-optimal conditions before the end of the session, Fernando Alonso was pleasantly surprised with how the speed was within his car.

“I think it was a nice surprise to find ourselves competitive,” he told media including PlanetF1.com. “After winter testing, we had some doubts in terms of one-lap pace.

“This weekend, we felt more competitive but normally we run maybe more engine or less fuel or whatever and we find reality sometimes in qualifying. So we were very cautious into qualifying about our possibilities and we found ourselves quite competitive in Q1 and Q2 and then in Q3.

“Now we are in the mix. We are within one tenth of a Ferrari, in front of [Lewis] Hamilton, together with the McLarens. So it’s a massive surprise and I’m extremely happy.”

Read more: Fernando Alonso admits quali result ‘massive surprise’ after winter testing

Daniel Ricciardo admits being ‘grumpy at myself’ after Bahrain qualifying

Some pundits had predicted RB to potentially be the surprise package of the season, but Daniel Ricciardo admitted he had expected to be in the midfield places in qualifying.

He qualified 14th with team-mate Yuki Tsunoda up in 11th for the Bahrain Grand Prix, and leaving a bit of time on the table left Ricciardo slightly frustrated – though he knows better times are ahead for the team.

“I was disappointed in my position slash performance,” he told media, including PlanetF1.com.

“It wasn’t… I didn’t drive shit or anything but I never really crossed the line being like, ‘Yeah, I did a clear lap’.

“I always knew, I could make time at Turn 1, or Turn 4. There were always some parts on the track where I knew there was lap time but I never really was able to put it together.

“Even if I improved a little bit, then I’d probably lose a bit in the next corner, so it kind of see-sawed a bit. I was never progressively gaining. So I felt like, from that point of view, I wasn’t that happy with my session.”

Read more: Daniel Ricciardo’s ‘grumpy’ assessment as RB hype falls flat in Bahrain qualifying

Sebastian Vettel discusses F1 comeback following Toto Wolff messages

Away from the on-track goings-on in Bahrain, having admitted to messages being exchanged with Toto Wolff, though not necessarily about driving for Mercedes in future, Sebastian Vettel has not fully ruled out a Formula 1 comeback in future.

Speaking to Swiss publication Neue Zurcher Zeitung, Vettel said: “Toto Wolff didn’t call me, but we briefly exchanged text messages. But so far it’s not an issue for me, also because at 36 I still have all the time in the world. So it’s not going away.

“But my omens haven’t changed. I think I’ve learnt and understood a lot in this one year without racing, including about myself. Being on the other side has had a huge impact on me and many questions have come up. So far, there are no active plans.”

Read more: Sebastian Vettel addresses F1 comeback stance after Toto Wolff messages exchanged