Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has secured Pole Position ahead of tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
After topping all of the three Practice sessions, Verstappen hooked up the perfect lap by going purple in all three sectors to take Pole by a comfortable margin.
In the Dutchman’s wake was Reigning Champion Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate of Valtteri Bottas.
Q1 – Mazepin Spin ends Q1 under yellow flags
The first qualifying session of 2021 got underway with both Haas and Williams drivers appearing on track first.
In preparation of his first flying lap, Haas’s Nikita Mazepin spun at Turn 13.
The Russian was able to keep his car out of the gravel. However, he was able to continue as team-mate Mick Schumacher posted the first lap time of the session.
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 27, 2021
On his first lap, Max Verstappen ran wide on the exit of Turn 2. After completing his lap, he radioed his team to check the underside of his car for damage to the floor.
As the chequered flag fell, Mazepin spun again and would cause a headache for a number of drivers.
Spinning at Turn 1 after completing his lap, Mazepin’s spin would disrupt the laps of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel.
After ridding the kerbs at Turn 2, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr briefly lost drive. Fortunately for the Spaniard, the Prancing Horse kicked back into life and narrowly escaped Q1 by the skin of his teeth.
Meanwhile, as Sainz trailed around the track, Vettel and Ocon were forced to lift off which impacted their laps even further.
Consequently, Vettel languished in 18th, behind Ocon and the Williams of Nicholas Latifi in between.
This was good news for Latifi’s teammate George Russell, who gifted Williams with their first Q2 appearance of 2021.
With some drivers posting quicker times under the yellow flag conditions, the FIA will be investigating the final minute after the qualifying session.
Q2 – Ferrari pounce as Perez Pays for Tyre Strategy
After their first runs, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo had their lap times deleted after running too wide at Turn 4.
With most drivers on the Medium tyre, it was Hamilton who led Verstappen and Bottas early on. Behind them, Sainz and the sister Ferrari of Charles Leclerc set competitive times, albeit on the soft compound.
Additionally, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin managed to get inside the top ten on the option.
On a used set of Soft tyres, Russell completed his one and only lap. His lap time of a 1:33:430 initially placed the Brit in 13th but come the end of the session, he’d dropped to 15th.
All apart from Russell appeared back on track for their final runs and final hopes of securing a place inside the top ten.
At the chequered flag, it was the Scuderia who surprisingly shot to the top of the time sheets. Sainz pipped Leclerc by only 0.001s with both times set on the Soft tyre.
For Perez though, the gamble on mediums that didn’t pay off for Perez and was knocked-out in Q2.
Just missing out on the top ten along with Perez were both Alfa Romeos and Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
Having been amongst the midfield all weekend, Alonso managed to get into Q3. Both Mercedes and McLarens both progressed, as well as Stroll and the remaining Alpha Tauri of Gasly.
Q3 – Verstappen secures Pole as Hamilton gives it his all
The battle that had been gaining traction all weekend finally showed after the first run in Q3. Sitting on Provisional Pole was Verstappen, who had Hamilton breathing down his neck with the Brit only +0.023s behind.
Running on used Soft tyres, Sainz and both McLarens sat in fifth down to seventh as in front of them, Gasly had nearly a two and half tenth gap to Bottas in third and fourth.
On his one and only run, Stroll provisionally placed his Aston Martin in sixth.
At the start of the final runs, Bottas could only advance into third place. Teammate Hamilton followed, who crossed the line to to go fastest by nearly one and a half tenths.
But behind them, Verstappen was flying in his Red Bull.
With a margin of nearly four tenths, Verstappen completed a scintillating lap to secure Pole Position. Before today, the Dutchman had never qualified on the front-row.
While Red Bull celebrated, Mercedes were to left wonder how he’d managed to pull out such a gap.
It’s the first time that Mercedes have been denied pole in the opening race since 2013.
Reeling from securing Pole, Verstappen said: “I’m looking forward to tomorrow. We need to get a clean start and take it from there.”
After this, the Dutchman shoved a cake in former Red Bull driver David Coulthard’s face as the Scotsman celebrates his 50th birthday.
Max was very happy about being on pole and everything
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 27, 2021
Having to settle for second this time, Hamilton congratulated Verstappen on securing Pole.
Reflecting on his lap, Hamilton said: “I absolutely gave it everything I had, but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough. There’s always more, but it was the best I could do, I got everything I could from the car.”
Behind the top three, Leclerc bagged fourth for Ferrari, while Gasly placed his AlphaTauri in fifth with both drivers were happy with their performance.
With his fourth place slot, Leclerc equalled his and Ferrari’s best qualifying from last year, having qualified just outside the top three four times in 2020.
The McLaren pair of Ricciardo and Norris lined-up in sixth and seventh with Sainz, Alonso and Stroll completing the top ten.