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Verstappen asserts Red Bull pace in Bahrain qualifying one-two

In a hotly-anticipated qualifying hour, it was reigning World Champion Max Verstappen who picked up where he left off by taking the first Formula 1 pole position of the season.

Max Verstappen took his 21st Formula 1 Pole Position in a sterling effort for the Red Bull team, who locked out the front row. The reigning World Champion secured top spot for the Bahrain Grand Prix grid with a 1:29.708 ahead of teammate Sergio Perez, who fell just over one tenth away from Pole after improvements on his second flying lap. Charles Leclerc took third and initially appeared to be Red Bull's closest challenger after the opening laps but, curiously, Ferrari elected not send the Monegasque out for a second flying lap in Q3. Teammate Carlos Sainz was sent out for another lap, but could not topple Leclerc's time, and settled for fourth. Fernando Alonso was unable to create the headline start for Aston Martin and finished a very strong qualifying in P5, ahead of the Mercedes duo of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, and teammate Lance Stroll. Alpine's Esteban Ocon took P9 for Alpine, ahead of an impressive qualifying return for Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, whose sole Q3 run was ended by a track limits violation.

Last gasp Stroll lap denies McLaren a Q3 appearance

In an expectation-defying performance, Lando Norris managed to place his McLaren in P11, and fell one-quarter of a second away from an unlikely Q3 appearance after a late improvement from Stroll. The Alfa Romeo duo will pin higher hopes on their race performance after qualifying in P12 & P13, with Valtteri Bottas leading Zhou Guanyu. Yuki Tsunoda was the lead AlphaTauri, but did not provide evidence of any big leap forward that the team were hoping for. He qualified in P14, and was four tenths away from the Q3 cut. Alex Albon's attempts at providing a shock Q3 appearance for Williams ended when the Thai driver had an off-track moment in the second sector. He had to settle for a P15 result.

McLaren narrowly avoid double-Q1 elimination

Precautionary red flags were out within the opening few minutes of Q1, which were brought out for some loose parts of carbon fibre which fell off Leclerc's Ferrari. This disrupted Leclerc's early attempts to progress into Q2 on the Medium tyres, a tactic which was also replicated by teammate Sainz, before both returned to the track on Soft tyres. Lando Norris escaped a double-McLaren Q1 elimination by the slimmest of margins. The Briton's lap time for P15 was matched exactly by Williams' Logan Sargeant. However, the American was eliminated after setting his time after Norris. Kevin Magnussen was unable to follow teammate Hulkenberg out of Q1, and finished two tenths adrift of the target time. McLaren's Oscar Piastri finished in P18, ahead of AlphaTauri's Nyck de Vries, who fell several tenths of a second off the pace of teammate Yuki Tsunoda. Pierre Gasly was an unexpected elimination for Alpine, he originally finished in P17 and 0.15s away from the cut, but his lap time was deleted for track limits, so he will provisionally start the race from the back.

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