Max Verstappen seals pole position in F1 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix

World champion will start from the front on Saturday with Charles Leclerc second and George Russell third

Red Bull's Max Verstappen after clinching pole position at the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 1, 2024. Getty Images
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Triple world champion Max Verstappen secured pole position for the opening round of the new Formula One season in Bahrain.

The Red Bull driver was made to work for the 33rd pole of his career at the Sakhir Circuit with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc second and George Russell third for Mercedes.

The first two grands prix of a record 24-race championship in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, are both being held under lights and on a Saturday.

Vertappen, who won from pole in Bahrain last year and ended up with 19 victories from 22 races in a dominant season, said he had enjoyed the day.

It was a lot of fun actually, the track had a lot of grip but with the wind over the last few days, it's been quite tricky to get the whole lap together and it was the same in qualifying, in Q1, Q2 you go a bit faster with the track ramping up but to really get everything out of it in Q3 was a little bit difficult,” said the Dutchman.

“I'm very happy to be on pole, to be honest it was a little bit unexpected but in qualifying I think the car came to us and I felt a bit happier with the whole car.

“I said yesterday we need to fine tune a few things on the car to try to get that perfect balance, but with the wind that was not possible, but luckily we went in the right direction and we could really push a bit more with the car.”

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz was fourth under the Sakhir floodlights, while Red Bull's Sergio Perez will start fifth, Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso sixth and McLaren's Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri seventh and eighth.

Seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton – starting his final season at Mercedes – will line up in ninth place with Haas's Nico Hulkenberg a surprise 10th for the US-owned team.

“Everyone at the factory have done an amazing job to give Lewis and I a car we feel much happier with and a base we can build upon,” said Hamilton's teammate Russell.

“Obviously Max is right out there in front, we've still got some catching up to do but when we look at our qualifying performance over the last two years and our race pace, starting P3 in Bahrain is a great place.”

Ferrari driver Leclerc admitted he was “a bit disappointed” saying it had “been a tricky weekend so far”.

“We have tried a few things in [practice],” said the Monegasque. “Unfortunately, we put two new sets of softs on, so it compromised a little bit, the Q3. But it is quite a good qualifying, a good start of the year.

“We are in a better place compared to a year ago. Now we have to see the race pace tomorrow. I found the sweet spot in qualifying, but Q1 was a bit tricky.

“All in all, a positive quali. I'm confident we did a step forward, but we have to wait and see by how much of a step forward tomorrow. If there is an opportunity, as always, I will go for it.”

Updated: March 01, 2024, 5:57 PM