Max Verstappen secured pole position for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday, beginning his attempt to win a third consecutive world title in the best possible way.
He will start Sunday’s Grand Prix at the front of the grid, a place ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez, who completed a Red Bull one-two. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will start on the second row in third and fourth respectively.
Fernando Alonso’s impressive fifth place in his first qualifying session for Aston Martin further compounded Mercedes’ continued troubles, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton languishing in P6 and P7 respectively.
“It’s been a bit of a tough start to the weekend and today not finding my rhythm, but in qualifying we managed to put the best pieces together and of course very happy to be on pole,” Verstappen said, per the BBC.
“It’s amazing and I’m looking forward for tomorrow.”
“I was actually positively surprised being on pole after the struggles I had in practice. That’s positive and our race car is better.”
Verstappen had appeared off the pace during Friday’s practice as a blistering display from Alonso in Aston Martin’s new car kept the Dutchman from setting the fastest lap time.
Ferrari topped the standings in the first two rounds of qualifying as first Sainz and then Leclerc set the fastest times, before Verstappen set the fastest time in Q3 and underlined his credentials as this year’s favorite.
Meanwhile, Hamilton remained sanguine about his car’s performance, despite qualifying seventh following a difficult 2022.
“I went in with a really open mind,” he told Sky Sports. “Woke up this morning thinking we would be a lot further behind so the fact that we were even getting to Q3 was great.
“When we got to qualifying the car just didn’t feel alive. It felt really average. The direction I am going with my set-up I’m hoping works better for tomorrow but it made it a bit difficult for qualifying.
“It is not an impossible mountain to climb, and we can definitely close that gap. We’ve just got to focus.”