Max Verstappen as a ‘pleasant surprise’ for Bahrain Grand Prix
Max Verstappen said it was a “pleasant surprise” to claim pole position as Red Bull locked down the front row of the grid for Sunday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
The 25-year-old Dutchman, who has never won in Bahrain or in a championship-opening race, took the 21st pole position of his career with the dazzling pair in the third and final qualifying session (Q3) after struggling with balance. and form in practice.
“It is positive and very surprising,” said Verstappen. “It is a pleasant and positive surprise to be on pole after all the struggles in practice. Our race car feels better.
“The start of the weekend has been a bit difficult, not finding my rhythm, but in qualifying we managed to put together the best pieces and I am very happy to be on pole.
“It’s amazing. Now, I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Compared to last year everyone knows a bit more about what they’re doing with the car and increasing their performance a lot.”
It was Red Bull’s first front row lockout in Bahrain, a track where they have not won since 2013, when recently retired Sebastian Vettel was victorious for his fourth title.
Last year’s pole-sitter and race winner Charles Leclerc was third for Ferrari ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz, the Monegasque driver opting to save a set of tires rather than make the second last flying run.
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who was second and third fastest in practice, was unable to replicate that form, but was on the grid for Aston Martin in his first outing for the team after moving from Alpine to replace Vettel. Stayed in fifth place.
The 41-year-old Spaniard, who beat Verstappen in final practice earlier on Saturday to reach the top, said he had always felt pole position was an unrealistic ambition for Aston Martin.
“We were aiming to finish in the top five or six and we did so that’s good,” he added.
Leclerc said: “I think we were in the fight for pole, which was a nice surprise to be honest. I didn’t expect that after testing and after three practices which was a bit difficult.
“We managed to find the pace, but not for Red Bull and I think we have a better start in third place with the new tires than with the old ones.
“It was very close. Aston Martin are very quick, Mercedes are very quick. It is looking good for the future and makes Formula 1 more exciting.”
George Russell’s Mercedes and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton were sixth and seventh with Lance Stroll in the second Aston Martin, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg.
“I thought we would be a long way behind so it’s great to get to the third quarter and we’ve put in a lot of work overnight,” said Hamilton.
“The engineers have done a great job and taken a step forward. We are in a different place, but in qualifying the car just didn’t feel alive. It felt really average.
“The mountain is not impossible to climb and I think we can definitely bridge the gap. We just have to focus.”
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and was auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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