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Bahrain Grand Prix 2021

Winners and losers from F1 Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying

The first qualifying session of 2021 is out of the way, with some drivers faring considerably better than others. Who were the big winners and losers from Saturday?

Analysis
To news overview © Mercedes

Qualifying in Bahrain produced a thrilling hour of on-track action, culminating in a last gasp pole position for Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

Some of the drivers were left thrilled by their results, while others despaired after a bad showing. So who were the winners and losers from the Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying session?

The winners

Max Verstappen

There's no doubt about the clear winner of Saturday, with Max Verstappen continuing his imperious form by topping every session over the weekend so far.

The Dutch driver barely put a wheel wrong, with his Q1 error that led to him shedding some carbon bits after hitting the Turn 2 kerb being the biggest moment of his weekend so far. With Christian Horner confirming the parts lost cost Verstappen 'maybe a tenth' over the remainder of qualifying, it was a huge lap from Max to clinch pole by 0.4 seconds right after Hamilton had just stolen pole away from him.

Mercedes

Considering how out of sorts Mercedes appeared in pre-season testing, Saturday's qualifying result will be a major relief for the reigning Champions.

Aside from Verstappen's magic, Merc would have clinched another comfortable 1-2 and progressed through Q2 on the medium compound. While Toto Wolff claims 'every deficit is difficult to take', it will be reassuring for Hamilton and Bottas to see that their recalcitrant W12 is still that fast while work carries on back at Brackley to understand their 'diva' machine.

With Hamilton's long run on Friday comparable to Verstappen's, you can't discount them from still taking the win on Sunday. Red Bull need to make hay while the sun shines, and that's while Merc are slightly on the back foot.

Ferrari

Ferrari have made a clear step forward for 2021, both as a team and an engine supplier, with their brand new power unit powering both the Scuderia and Alfa Romeo a session further than they usually managed in 2020. Topping the times in Q2 on the soft compound, both Ferraris made it into Q3 for the first time since Silverstone last year, and it was interesting to see that it was Carlos Sainz who led the way up until the final minutes of Q3.

The Spaniard admitted afterwards that he needs more knowledge of the car to exploit the car's ultimate pace more, making a small mistake on his final flying lap. It resulted in a big difference that enabled Charles Leclerc to qualify in fourth on raw pace, with Sainz in eighth.

Alfa Romeo, too, exploited their more powerful engine to get both C41s into Q2. Antonio Giovinazzi was just a tenth away from making it into Q3, indicating clear progress from a team that spent most of their time being eliminated in Q1 last year.

Yuki Tsunoda

The young Japanese driver is making a huge impression in his early Formula 1 days. Having impressed with the second fastest overall time in pre-season testing, Tsunoda picked up where he left off by finishing Q1 in second place.

His time was just a tenth away from Verstappen's best, and the pace of both AlphaTauri cars was enough to convince them to try getting through on the medium compound.

Ultimately, Tsunoda's session ended in disappointment as he was knocked out after failing to go quickly enough on the medium. Pierre Gasly showed his experience to get into Q3 on the same strategy, while Tsunoda rued the elimination as 'unacceptable' to himself. Despite the setback, Tsunoda is proving himself to be a very fast and aggressive learner with a cool, laidback temperament comparable to Kimi Raikkonen's. It's only a matter of time until Gasly is looking over his shoulder.

Fernando Alonso

In just his first race weekend in over two years, Alonso hauled his Alpine up to ninth on the grid after making it into Q3 in a car that, arguably, probably didn't deserve to be there.

Esteban Ocon was unlucky in that he was one of the drivers impeded by the late yellow flag in Q1 and was eliminated, but Alonso is showing none of the rustiness or slowing down you might expect from someone of his vintage.

Lining up behind the cars he left behind over the past few years with two McLarens and a Ferrari in front of him, don't bet against Alonso moving forward on Sunday as the joys of racing invigorate his relentless spirit.

Daniel Ricciardo

First qualifying session as a McLaren driver, and first blood to Daniel Ricciardo in the on-track battle with Lando Norris.

Norris will be aiming to keep ahead of Ricciardo and try to ensure that McLaren don't become too enamoured with their new signing, but struggled for outright pace in qualifying after admitting on Friday that he felt his team had shown their hand earlier than the others.

Daniel Ricciardo, having finished ahead of Norris, was at great pains to explain that his qualifying can only get better as he is still learning how best to drive the MCL35M. A fascinating rivalry is about to unfold, and it will be very entertaining if the immensely likeable Ricciardo and Norris sour on each other due to the car's competitiveness.

The losers

Sebastian Vettel

Coming into 2021 with the intent of proving all his doubters wrong, it's been a terrible start for Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin.

One of the best cars on the grid has become downright mediocre over the winter with the aerodynamic changes, and Vettel's preparation has been stymied by his lack of track time in testing. Coming into the Bahrain weekend, it was never particularly likely for the four-time champion to stamp his authority all over Lance Stroll but 18th place without any mechanical issues probably didn't cross his mind.

Having had a disappointing first flying lap in Q1, Vettel's second attempt was ruined by the yellow flags shown for Nikita Mazepin's spin at Turn 1 and, further around the lap, for Carlos Sainz' ailing Ferrari.

Worse, Vettel has since been summoned before the race stewards for allegedly failing to respect double waved yellow flags at the end of Q1. He'll face the stewards on Sunday morning, and could be facing a penalty that puts him right at the very back.

Nikita Mazepin

The Russian driver will start his debut race from plum last, having had numerous spins on Saturday.

Having had a spin in Friday practice, Mazepin replicated the error on Saturday morning, and then spun off again early in Q1 as he applied the power coming out of Turn 13. Moments later, he had another spin as he ended up facing the wrong way at Turn 1 and ruined the flying laps of several other drivers.

He attributed this error to a brake wire issue on his Haas, which he said affected him throughout the session. He ended Q1 0.8 seconds behind Mick Schumacher, with his teammate coming home in P19.

Sergio Perez

Unfortunately for Sergio Perez, his Red Bull career has gotten off to a bad start. In fact, it almost appears like there hasn't been a change in driver as the second Red Bull, not for the first time, failed to make it into Q3 while Verstappen stormed to pole.

Seven tenths away in Q1 on the same tyres, Perez was put on the same medium compound as Verstappen for Q2 as Red Bull wanted to get both drivers through on the better race tyre.

Perez was one of two drivers to have their first flying lap deleted in Q2, although his deleted time of 1:30.750 would have resulted in elimination anyway. His second lap, a 1:30.6, resulted in 11th spot and was 0.3 seconds slower than Verstappen managed on the same compound.

The Mexican feels he still has to learn the RB16B, saying it requires 'a different driving style' compared to the Racing Point he stepped out of three months ago. Fortunately for him, his race pace on Friday was much more competitive, so he'll have the chance to make progress in the same on Sunday. Particularly as he's the lead driver with free tyre choice, starting from 11th.

RN365 News dossier F1 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

The latest news about the Bahrain Grand Prix straight from the Bahrain International Circuit.

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