F1 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix: Verstappen with a Dominant Pole Position
Max Verstappen starts the 2021 season off with a bang, beating the reigning champion Lewis Hamilton by 388 thousandths of a second. The rest of the grid was a mixed bag, with some drivers falling victim to bad timing.
The first qualifying session of the 2021 season was opened by both Haas and Williams drivers lining up at the end of the pit lane, waiting for the green light.
On their first timed laps, both George Russel and Nicholas Latifi pulled into the pits without setting a time, while Haas’ Nikita Mazepin spun in turn 13 ruining his opening lap.
Mick Schumacher was the only one to set a time. After the pioneers came back to the pits, the entire rest of the grid went out onto the track.
Lando Norris was the first to set a time, a warm-up time of 1:31.754. Verstappen and Hamilton were matching each other’s pace on first tries, with Verstappen squeezing out in front with a 1:30.499, beating Hamilton’s 1:30.617. Valtteri Bottas was off the pace with a first run of 1:31.200.
The real surprise of Q1 was delivered by the AlphaTauri drivers, with Yuki Tsunoda getting second and Pierre Gasly 4th on their runs. Both of them decided to stay in pits during the last runs, alongside Verstappen.
George Russell continues his amazing qualifying performances from last season by getting himself up to 8th initially. With Mazepin spinning in Turn 1, this secured the Williams driver’s place in Q2.
Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari engine stopped in sector 2, hampering the laps of Sebastian Vettel and Esteban Ocon. Both got eliminated from Q1 on 18th and 16th respectively, alongside a less surprising bunch of Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin. Notably, all cars that made it into Q2 were within less than 1.2 seconds in Q1.
The familiar top trio from 2020 opened Q2, with Hamilton just beating Verstappen with a 1.30:085, leaving the Red Bull driver just over two tenths behind. Valtteri Bottas could not match the pace of his teammate, losing almost half a second on his first lap.
In addition to the Mercedes and Red Bull cars, the AlphaTauris also used medium tires for their laps in Q2. On their first runs however, they barely scraped into the top 10. Perez and Ricciardo would be under pressure on their second tries, as both got their times deleted due to track limit infringements in Turn 4.
A long queue set off for second attempts with three minutes to go, with Russell being the sole exception, accepting his fate in 15th place. Gasly improves his time from first attempt, making it to Q3 with the medium compound.
Red Bull’s risk with sending Perez out with mediums backfired as the Mexican is eliminated on 11th, while Tsunoda’s spotlight from Q1 got dimmer as he was eliminated on the medium compound, taking 13th position.
Daniel Ricciardo was the first one to leave the pits in Q3; with all but Leclerc, Alonso, and Stroll following the Honey Badger. Gasly sets a great time of 1:30.014, which Bottas is unable to match.
Hamilton and Verstappen are in their own league, however, as Verstappen beats Hamilton by 23 thousandths with a 1.29:526.
Bottas lead the group into the last attempts, with Hamilton and Gasly in close proximity. Both Mercedes drivers improved, but Verstappen set every sector alight with purple and took his first pole in Bahrain with a 1:28.997, beating Hamilton by a massive gap of 0.388 seconds.
Bottas secured third but he was nowhere near with almost six tenths to Verstappen. Leclerc finishes his qualifying a high by overtaking Gasly to secure fourth on the grid for tomorrow.
Grid Talk Podcast
Want more reaction to qualifying? Ruby Price hosted panelists Louis Edwards and Tom Horrox on Grid Talk’s Bahrain Qualifying Review. Audio and Video versions are both available below:
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