Reigning Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen takes pole position in Bahrain, Australian Oscar Piastri qualifies in 18th place
Formula One World Champion Max Verstappen has shown Red Bull remain the team to beat by leading Sergio Perez to the front row in qualifying for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were the closest contenders in third and fourth, while long-time favorite Fernando Alonso finished fifth in the 356th race of his career and first for Aston Martin.
But it will be a tough christening for Oscar Piastri, the Australian rookie, who will start his McLaren from 18th on the grid after a disappointing first qualifying session.
Red Bull arrived in Bahrain as favorites, having won 17 of 22 races last year and being quick in testing, but their struggle for balance while Alonso set the pace of training had fueled others’ dreams of another fight.
Instead, Verstappen found the time he needed to give his dad Jos the perfect 51st birthday present with a 21st pole career.
“I hope he was watching, I’m pretty sure he was watching,” said the Dutch driver, who set a best lap of 1min 29.708s on the floodlit circuit of Sakhir. Perez was 0.138 seconds slower.
“I was actually pleasantly surprised that we were on pole after the fights in practice,” added the two-time world champion.
“Usually our racing car is better, let’s see.”
Last season’s runners-up and under the new management of Fred Vasseur, Ferrari also showed they’ve stayed in the mix despite hints they may have fallen behind.
Sainz was fastest in the first leg of qualifying and Leclerc in the lead in the second, while Verstappen was seventh and second.
“I think we were fighting for pole, which was a good surprise to be honest,” said Leclerc. “I don’t know if I would have been on pole or not, but it would have been close.”
Mercedes qualified sixth and seventh, while George Russell and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton ran out of tires for the closing stages.
Piastri was one of six riders eliminated after the first session – his time of 1’32.101 was more than a second slower than Sainz’s fastest time in Q1.
Alonso’s Canadian teammate Lance Stroll, who broke his wrists in a bike accident in Spain last month and missed tests, will start eighth.
“It’s been exactly two weeks today since my accident. I couldn’t move either hand, couldn’t walk. I also had a broken big toe on my right foot,” he said of his journey from hospital to the top 10 on the grid.
American Logan Sargeant was the best qualifier among the three rookies, placing his Williams 16th on the grid with teammate Alex Albon in 15th.
It was a sobering afternoon for McLaren as Piastri’s more experienced teammate Lando Norris only qualified in 11th place.
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-03-05/verstappen-takes-bahrain-f1-pole-piastri-ousted-in-q1/102055752 Reigning Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen takes pole position in Bahrain, Australian Oscar Piastri qualifies in 18th place