• Home
  • Motorsport
  • Bahrain GP qualifying: Max Verstappen takes pole position in Formula season opener

Bahrain GP qualifying: Max Verstappen takes pole position in Formula 1 season opener

Defending Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen will start in pole position ahead of Charles Leclerc and George Russell in the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday.

The build-up to the first race of the campaign has totally been overshadowed by allegations whirling around Horner.

The 50-year-old was exonerated by Red Bull Racing parent's company, Red Bull GmbH, following an internal probe into "inappropriate behaviour" against a female colleague on Wednesday – before hundreds of WhatsApp messages appearing to be written by him were leaked to the F1 world a day later.

However, Horner, who has always denied any wrongdoing and remains in his role, was on the world champions' pit wall here in Bahrain to see Verstappen claim his first pole of a season in which he is expected to romp to his fourth consecutive world championship in his all-conquering Red Bull machine.

But the triple world champion was made to work for the 33rd pole of his career under the thousands of bulbs that light up the Sakhir Circuit with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc second, two tenths back.

George Russell finished third for Mercedes, one place ahead of Ferrari's Carlos Sainz. Lewis Hamilton will line up in ninth on the grid.

Despite taking top spot, Verstappen apologised for what he perceived to be a scruffy lap.

"Don't be sorry, Max," said Horner over the team radio. "You finished two tenths clear of Charles and three tenths ahead of George."

It is anticipated that Horner's wife, Geri Halliwell, will be with her husband for Saturday's 57-lap race.

Chalerm Yoovidhya, who owns 51 per cent of the Red Bull group, is also set to be in attendance in a public show of support for Horner.

"It was a lot of fun," said Verstappen. "I am very happy to be on pole, and it was a little bit unexpected. The car came to us and I felt happier than I did in practice.

"The race is going to be close, too, but we will see tomorrow. I am confident we can have a strong race."

Hamilton raised hope that he might take the challenge to Verstappen when he finished fastest in practice on Thursday.

However, the 39-year-old, entering his final campaign for the Silver Arrows before he joins Ferrari, finished half-a-second back and behind team-mate Russell.

"Max is still out there in front and we have a lot of catching up to do, but starting third here in Bahrain is a great place for us," said Russell.

"We have made a big step forward in single-lap pace, but hopefully we have not compromised our race pace. But Max is out ahead and the race for all of us is for second."

While Verstappen took top spot, Sergio Perez was fifth in the other Red Bull, one place ahead of Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso.

British driver Lando Norris will line up in seventh for McLaren, with Alex Albon 13th for Williams.

Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly will prop up the grid following a miserable qualifying session for the Alpine team.

Qualifying results:

1    Max Verstappen    NED    Oracle Red Bull Racing 1m29.179s
2    Charles Leclerc    MON    Scuderia Ferrari 1m29.407s
3    George Russell    GBR    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 1m29.485s
4    Carlos Sainz    ESP    Scuderia Ferrari 1m29.507s
5    Sergio Perez    MEX    Oracle Red Bull Racing 1m29.537s
6    Fernando Alonso    ESP    Aston Martin Aramco F1 Team 1m29.542s
7    Lando Norris    GBR    McLaren F1 Team 1m29.614s
8    Oscar Piastri    AUS    McLaren F1 Team 1m29.683s
9    Lewis Hamilton    GBR    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 1m29.710s
10    Nico Hulkenberg    GER    MoneyGram Haas F1 Team 1m30.502s
11    Yuki Tsunoda    JPN    Visa Cash App RB F1 Team 1m30.129s     
12    Lance Stroll    CAN    Aston Martin Aramco F1 Team 1m30.200s     
13    Alex Albon    THA    Williams Racing    1m30.221s     
14    Daniel Ricciardo AUS    Visa Cash App RB F1 Team 1m30.278s     
15    Kevin Magnussen    DEN    MoneyGram Haas F1 Team 1m30.529s     
16    Valtteri Bottas    FIN    Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber 1m30.756s          
17    Zhou Guanyu    CHN    Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber 1m30.757s          
18    Logan Sargeant    USA    Williams Racing    1m30.770s          
19    Esteban Ocon    FRA    BWT Alpine F1 Team 1m30.793s          
20    Pierre Gasly    FRA    BWT Alpine F1 Team 1m30.948s     

READ MORE: George Russell analyses pre-season gains to Max Verstappen's F1 dominance

More Articles