F1: Verstappen speeds to pole in tight Bahrain GP qualifying
by Mark Cipolloni
The new rules F1 implemented last year to allow the smaller teams to compete better with the top teams is working, as qualifying for the Bahrain GP was closer than it has ever been. The top teams from the previous year get less wind tunnel development time than the teams who finish at the back.
Max Verstappen turned a lap of 1m29.708s to win the pole for the Bahrain GP, his 21st career F1 pole, to nip his Red Bull Honda teammate Sergio Perez by 0.103s.
Proof the new regs are working
Gap between the fastest lap of the fastest and slowest teams in qualifying at the Bahrain GP
2017 – 3.285s
2018 – 3.456s
2019 – 3.893s
2020 – 2.847s
2021 – 3.452s
2022 – 2.219s
2023 – 1.753s
Verstappen gave his father a nice birthday present, as Jos Verstappen is celebrating his 51st birthday.
“It’s been a bit of a tough start to the weekend, not really finding my rhythm. Very happy to be on pole, having such a strong car with Checo up there as well, it’s amazing and I’m looking forward to tomorrow as well,” said a happy Verstappen, the defending world driving champion.
“Particularly happy because my whole weekend up until qualifying was very difficult. I couldn’t really find the comfortable balance I had in testing, and I was just struggling a lot to just get the car together, really. I went into qualifying and everything already felt a bit better but it was still not, let’s say, perfect.
“So yeah, I’m very, very happy. Then in Q3 we put these laps in. I still think it’s not perfect but in a better direction so for sure for the next race we will have to analyze a bit why from the test to the race it’s so difficult for us. Also, for me driving-wise. But nevertheless, we are sitting here with two cars, so coming off last year I think this is again a very strong start for us so, very happy with that.”
The Dutchman added that Red Bull had explored a number of set-up avenues to find that elusive pace.
“I went left and right and back to the middle and found a bit of a compromise, so that’s a bit unusual to make such big changes. But like I said, luckily in qualifying that’s probably the best balance I’ve had throughout the weekend,” he said.
“It has been really tight qualifying,” said Perez. “I don’t remember such a tight qualifying battle. You cannot leave anything on the table. I wasn’t totally comfortable with the balance, but to get this start for the team is really special.”
Charles Leclerc had the 3rd best time at 1m30.000s flat, 0.292s back in his #16 Ferrari.
When asked why he stepped out of his car after his Q3 run, Leclerc said, “No, there was no issue, I think we were in the fight for pole which was good. But in the race run we were a little bit behind Red Bull so starting third on new tires is better than starting first with old tires. In the race run we seem to have a bit of a weakness, so having a new tire will help us.”
Carlos Sainz Jr. was 4th fastest, 0.446s behind in the #55 Ferrari.
Fernando Alonso put the #14 Aston Martin 5th on the grid, 0.638s back and just ahead of the Mercedes of George Russell 0.632s back.
But if we can base anything on qualifying, it is set to be very, very tight.
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT||1:31.295||1:30.503||1:29.708||15|
|2||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT||1:31.479||1:30.746||1:29.846||15|
|5||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:31.158||1:30.645||1:30.336||15|
|8||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:31.184||1:31.127||1:30.836||18|
|9||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:31.508||1:30.914||1:30.984||15|
|10||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Haas Ferrari||1:31.204||1:30.809||–||17|
|11||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:31.652||1:31.381||–||13|
|12||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:31.504||1:31.443||–||12|
|13||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:31.615||1:31.473||–||12|
|14||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri Honda RBPT||1:31.400||1:32.510||–||15|
|15||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||1:31.461||–||–||8|
|16||2||Logan Sargeant||Williams Mercedes||1:31.652||–||–||6|
|17||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:31.892||–||–||6|
|18||81||Oscar Piastri||Mclaren Mercedes||1:32.101||–||–||7|
|19||21||Nyck De Vries||AlphaTauri Honda RBPT||1:32.121||–||–||9|
|20||10||Pierre Gasly||Alpine Renault||1:32.181||–||–||6|