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Max Verstappen takes pole for season opener in Bahrain: 'Amazing'

Published on 04 March 2023 by Kees-Jan Koster

Max Verstappen took pole position for the season opener in Bahrain. Ahead of qualifying the expectations were high at Oracle Red Bull Racing and Max lived up to those expectations by taking pole position in an exciting qualifying. Teammate Sergio Perez finished in second position, so the team from Milton Keynes takes the front row. Charles Leclerc for Ferrari finished third.

After qualifying Max is reminded that he is giving his father Jos a nice birthday present with his pole: “I'm pretty sure he was watching and was happy with it”, says Max. “Yesterday we had a tough start to the weekend, not really finding my rhythm. But in qualifying, I think we managed to put the best pieces together. I am very happy to be on pole and for the whole team. After last year and having such a strong car, with ‘Checo’ up there too. It is amazing and I am looking forward to tomorrow.”

Asked what the difference is with last year’s car, Max explains: “I think compared to last year everyone knows a bit more what they are doing with the car. The changes slow down the car a bit, but we are still going faster. Throughout the year you will see that everyone is increasing their performance, and that is the beautiful thing about Formula 1.”

Despite the hight expectations ahead of the weekend, Max indicates he is a bit surprised by being on pole: “It went better than expected, I was positively surprised being on pole after the struggles in free practice. So that is positive and normally our race car is better. In the long runs the Aston Martins looked good, but they are starting a bit more to the back. We have to concentrate on ourselves and get the best out of that”, concludes Max.

The first qualifying of the year also means a showdown for the new Formula 1 season. Just past sundown the temperature on the Bahrain International Circuit has dropped to 24 degrees Celsius and the track temperature is 29 degrees. Both AlphaTauris of Yuki Tsunoda and the Dutchman Nyck de Vries are the first to come out on track and are the first to set a time. When Max comes out on track, the session is red flagged because of some debris on track, from the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.

After a short delay the track is cleared. Max comes out on a set of soft tyres and sets a time of 1:31.295, which is good for fifth place. A second run follows, but Max does not improve his time. Verstappen falls back into seventh position and is through to Q2. Rookie Logan Sargeant finishes sixteenth and drops out of qualifying. The American sets the exact same time as Lando Norris, but because Norris set his time first, Sergeant finishes behind Norris. Keven Magnussen is seventeenth, with behind him Oscar Piastri. Nick de Vries finishes in P19, and the final lap time of Pierre Gasly is deleted because of track limits, the Frenchman finishes last.

In Q2 all drivers come out on soft tyres. Max sets a 1:30.503 in his first run which is the fastest time, with behind him Perez in second place. Verstappen and Perez decide not to do a second run and stay in the pits, while the other drivers come out again for a second flying lap. Leclerc is the only driver going faster than Verstappen, so the Dutchman finishes Q2 in P2. The following drivers drop out of Q2: Lando Norris (P11), Valtteri Bottas (P12), Zhou Guanyu (P13), Yuki Tsunoda (P14) and Alexander Albon (P15).

In Q3 the remaining ten drivers compete for pole position. Max sets a 1:29.897 in his first flying lap on soft tyres, putting him on provisional pole. Leclerc is after the first run in P2, with behind him Perez and Alonso. While Verstappen and Perez come out for a second run, Leclerc decides to not come out again. Verstappen improves his time to a 1:29.708, none of the other drivers set a faster time. As in 2021, Max takes pole position for the first race of the season in Bahrain. Perez is 0.138 seconds slower than Max and finishes in P2, while Leclerc takes P3. Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz finished in fourth position, with behind him Fernando Alonso for Aston Martin in P5. Both Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finish in sixth and seventh place, while Lance Stroll, Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg complete the top ten.

Sunday at 4pm Dutch time the Bahrain Grand Prix will start.

Contest Bahrain GP: win a by Max signed scale 1:2 world champion 2022 helmet!

Results qualifying Bahrain:

1Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT1:31.2951:30.5031:29.708
2Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT1:31.4791:30.7461:29.846
3Charles LeclercLECFerrari1:31.0941:30.2821:30.000
4Carlos SainzSAIFerrari1:30.9931:30.5151:30.154
5Fernando AlonsoALOAston Martin Mercedes1:31.1581:30.6451:30.336
6George RussellRUSMercedes1:31.0571:30.5071:30.340
7Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes1:31.5431:30.5131:30.384
8Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes1:31.1841:31.1271:30.836
9Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault1:31.5081:30.9141:30.984
10Nico HulkenbergHULHaas Ferrari1:31.2041:30.809DNF
11Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes1:31.6521:31.381
12Valtteri BottasBOTAlfa Romeo Ferrari1:31.5041:31.443
13Zhou GuanyuZHOAlfa Romeo Ferrari1:31.6151:31.473
14Yuki TsunodaTSUAlphaTauri Honda RBPT1:31.4001:32.510
15Alexander AlbonALBWilliams Mercedes1:31.461DNF
16Logan SargeantSARWilliams Mercedes1:31.652
17Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari1:31.892
18Oscar PiastriPIAMcLaren Mercedes1:32.101
19Nyck De VriesDEVAlphaTauri Honda RBPT1:32.121
20Pierre GaslyGASAlpine Renault1:32.181