until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Verstappen fastest in first 2024 F1 qualifying at Bahrain GP

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

Reigning Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen took pole position for the 2024 season opener in Bahrain, with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc as his nearest rival.

Key moments

  • Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes in top three
  • Hamilton only ninth after topping Friday
  • Hulkenberg gets Haas into Q3
  • Alpine locks out back row

Verstappen was already on provisional pole after his first run in Q3 despite not even improving on his Q2 time - meaning there would likely be laptime to find on his final push in qualifying.

That was indeed the case as he lowered the benchmark to 1m29.179s - although this was still marginally slower than Leclerc's Q2-topping lap.

But Leclerc himself couldn't come near that lap, both of his efforts in Q3 ending up in the 1m29.4s range and both good enough for second on the grid.

Mercedes driver George Russell headed the second row for the Silver Arrows, while Carlos Sainz made it two Ferraris in the top four, exactly a tenth down on Leclerc.

The gap between Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez oscillated through qualifying, but ultimately Perez - who was part of a Red Bull 1-2 on the grid for this race last year - could only place fifth, three and a half tenths down on his team-mate.

Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin 'ran in the gap' in Q3, electing to do only a single push lap at a largely empty track in the middle of the session, and ended up sixth, 0.005s down on Perez.

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri locked out the fourth row for McLaren.

It was a disappointing showing for Friday-topper Lewis Hamilton, who was only ninth in the Mercedes, although within a quarter of a second of team-mate Russell.

Nico Hulkenberg had made a splash by putting a Haas most expected to really struggle at the start of the season into Q3, but while he was sixth in Q2 he didn't use fresh tyres, so had to settle for 10th.

RB's VCARB 01 didn't necessarily live up to pre-season billing as both Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo fell short of a Q3 spot.

Tsunoda, though, was just 0.007s short of picking off Piastri for that final place in Q3, and after trailing Ricciardo in each practice session outpaced his more experienced team-mate.

Aston Martin's Lance Stroll - four tenths down on Alonso in Q2 - and Williams's Alex Albon slotted into the tenth-and-a-half gap between 11th-placed Tsunoda and 14th-placed Ricciardo.

A last-gasp improvement from Kevin Magnussen in Q1 spared him the blushes of an opening-segment exit - but no real gain followed in Q2, and he wound up nearly seven tenths down on Hulkenberg in that session, rounding out the Q2 order.

The two green Saubers were the fastest of those to head out in Q1, Valtteri Bottas just 0.001s ahead of third-year team-mate Zhou Guanyu.

Zhou had been ahead of Bottas coming into their final laps - and was left to rue a big, laptime-sapping snap through the final corner on his last push lap.

Sophomore Williams driver Logan Sargeant suffered a familiar qualifying defeat to Alex Albon, a gap of nearly four tenths more than enough to knock the American out in Q1.

Sargeant was just a tenth off Albon after their initial attempts, but unlike the Thai racer didn't get a solid second lap together and was shuffled down to 18th.

Yet he was still ahead of the two Alpines, as the French manufacturer's wretched start to 2024 continued with a last-row lockout.

Esteban Ocon could only offer a reassuring "only round one" message to his team after setting the 19th-fastest time, while Pierre Gasly lamented a rushed outlap en route to 20th.

A tenth and a half down on Ocon, Gasly ended up the only driver more than a second off Q1-topper Sainz.

Qualifying result

1Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m30.031s1m29.374s1m29.179s
2Charles LeclercFerrari1m30.243s1m29.165s1m29.407s
3George RussellMercedes1m30.350s1m29.922s1m29.485s
4Carlos SainzFerrari1m29.909s1m29.573s1m29.507s
5Sergio PérezRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m30.221s1m29.932s1m29.537s
6Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes1m30.179s1m29.801s1m29.542s
7Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1m30.143s1m29.941s1m29.614s
8Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1m30.531s1m30.122s1m29.683s
9Lewis HamiltonMercedes1m30.451s1m29.718s1m29.710s
10Nico HülkenbergHaas-Ferrari1m30.566s1m29.851s1m30.502s
11Yuki TsunodaRB-Honda RBPT1m30.481s1m30.129s
12Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1m29.965s1m30.200s
13Alex AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1m30.397s1m30.221s
14Daniel RicciardoRB-Honda RBPT1m30.562s1m30.278s
15Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1m30.646s1m30.529s
16Valtteri BottasSauber-Ferrari1m30.756s
17Guanyu ZhouSauber-Ferrari1m30.757s
18Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes1m30.770s
19Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1m30.793s
20Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault1m30.948s
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