Verstappen on pole again for F1 Bahrain GP as Leclerc joins him on the front row

Photo credits: Red Bull Content Pool
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It’s time for the first qualifying session of the 2024 season. Who will start the year from the top spot of the grid, reigning champion Max Verstappen who had claimed both P1 and win in the past season, Charles Leclerc, who had done the same in 2022, or a totally unexpected contender?

So far we have had a different leader for all practise sessions: Daniel Ricciardo for FP1, Lewis Hamilton in the night time FP2 and earlier today Carlos Sainz for FP3.

The Spanish driver alongside his teammate was among the first drivers to exit the pits for Q1 sporting medium tyres, followed shortly after by the Alpines, setting the first benchmark in 1:31.208s. All the other teams have opted to do a single run and save a set of tyres, joining the track four minutes after the beginning of the session.

With eight minutes to go, Nico Hulkenberg has set the best provisional lap time in 1:30.623s for Haas, but is bested by Verstappen, Norris and Alonso. Sainz is the first driver to put in a lap in the 1:29s, taking the lead off the Red Bull driver.

In the provisional bottom five can be found both the Sauber and the Alpine drivers, as well as Kevin Magnussen. The only driver not coming back on track for a final attempt is Sainz, whereas Pierre Gasly is the first driver to see a lap cancelled for track limits in 2024.

Zhou manages to keep his Sauber on track and improve from P16 to provisional P11, whereas Lance Stroll sets the fastest first sector, with the Canadian driver bolting up to P2. Hamilton as well squeezed his way back into the top ten.

Unfortunately Sargeant’s latest attempt was marred by a technical issue that the American driver was unable to explain over the radio, but it’s an incredibly close grid, with the whole top 20 top covered by just over a second.

The Sauber’s ultimately just got bumped out.

Out in Q1: Bottas, Zhou, Sargeant, Ocon, Gasly

George Russell was noted by the stewards for not respecting the set delta time, with the Mercedes driver’s investigation to be solved after the end of Qualifying.

All the drivers exit the pits almost five minutes into the session, with the Haas drivers leading the way. Norris goes on top with a 1:29.941s, with Leclerc and Alonso completing the provisional podium on used rubber.

However all their efforts are improved by the Red Bull duo sporting fresh tyres, with Verstappen signing a 1:29.371s. Kevin Magnussen runs slightly off track.

After the first set of runs, Hulkenberg, Tsunoda, Ricciardo, Albon and Magnussen are the drivers at the moment not taking part in Q3.

The German driver however jumps to P2 after his second attempt, only 0.477s off the reigning champion’s time. He is replaced in the best of the rest spot by an improving Sainz.

Charles Leclerc sets the fastest lap of the session in the final heated moments of Q2 with a 1:29.165s. After a challenging session both Mercedes drivers manage to get through with their final attempt, kicking out of the top ten Tsunoda and Stroll.

Oscar Piastri will be in Q3 in Bahrain for the first time in his career due to a very small advantage of 0.007s over the Japanese driver.

Out in Q2: Tsunoda, Stroll, Albon, Ricciardo, Magnussen.

Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

The first driver to get on track for the top 10 setter Q3 is Nico Hulkenberg, lapping in 1:30.502s, a time improved by Russell and Norris. Verstappen takes provisional pole on fresh tyres with a 1:29.421s, but Leclerc is only 0.059s off his lap on slightly used tyres. Sainz slots right in between Russell and Norris for P4.

Fernando Alonso exits the pit lane on his own six minutes in the session, while the rest of the grid is making its way back to the pits. The Spanish driver sets the fastest second sector and slides in P3, with a 0.121s gap to Verstappen.

Verstappen is able to secure a great tow from Piastri, as well as Sainz from Hulkenberg who was closing his lap at that time. The Dutch driver rounds off his previous best time improving it to a 1:29.179s, with Leclerc trying to close the gap but ultimately 0.228s off the champion’s time.

Russell, Sainz and Perez all concluded ahead of Alonso, who will ultimately start from P6. Norris, Piastri, Hamilton and Hulkenberg round up the top ten for tomorrow’s Bahrain GP.

It’s a second pole position in a row at the track for the three times World Champion, who will have the best spot in the house to try and secure again the victory in the first race of the year.