Max Verstappen led a Red Bull 1-2 in the 2023 Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix season-opening qualifying, with Charles Leclerc third but unexpectedly missed the final Q3 posts.
Carlos Sainz finished fourth ahead of compatriot Fernando Alonso, the Aston Martin driver who only ran once in the final segment due to having a lower set of soft tires than the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers.
Verstappen led Leclerc after the first runs in Q3 by 0.103 seconds, but when the event was set to climax in qualifying, the latter was suddenly climbing out of his Ferrari and dropped to third by Perez’s final lap improvement.
Before that, Verstappen had already gone faster in his second run to record 1m29.708s, meaning he ended up 0.138s behind his teammate and Leclerc by 0.292s.
Sainz was able to make a second fly in the third quarter and set his personal best, but he ended up finishing fourth behind his teammate.
Then came Alonso and George Russell, who led Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton sixth and seventh, and the duo also completed just one run in Q3.
Lance Stroll did likewise, albeit running shortly after Alonso and finishing eighth while running with an injured right wrist.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon finished ninth ahead of new Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, who made his first return to qualifying as a full-time Formula 1 driver since 2019 by reaching Q3 but losing his only time in it because he went too far out of the track at Turn 4. .
In the second quarter of the year, Stroll’s recent improvement to sneak up to 10th saw McLaren driver Lando Norris unseated, who himself had just led from Q1.
All of the drivers who were eliminated in the second quarter had personal bests in their final runs but were held back again, bar Yuki Tsunoda, who cemented his best place with AlphaTauri just 14th.
Alex Albon also didn’t improve on the final lap for the Williams team, which made up from the rest with four minutes of Q2 remaining.
Albon ran a solo, ended up giving up a lap after appearing to go wide of the heavily screened Turn 4 track, after which he also stopped cutting behind Turn 7 quickly to the left, then came back into the pits still in 5th ten.
Alfa Romeo pair Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu were left out of the other drivers category.
Before that, Q1 had barely started when the red flag came out after Leclerc lost two pieces of his front wheel going down the pit straight before his first run on the media.
The first piece flew shortly after his DRS opened, and then as he braked and closed – likely as a result of the missing aero piece – a second, larger piece fell off the Ferrari’s underside and came to rest on the track, after that, the race control group elected to turn off session until the shards can be restored.
When action resumed after eight minutes of delay, Leclerc returned to the event after Ferrari repaired his car and went with the third fastest time behind Sainz and Russell.
With a big twist factor for the track, all drivers except Sainz were running at the opening segment finishes, Kevin Magnussen completing the last lap with a personal best header coming to the checkered flag but it changed down while the others later improved and Dane came out in the 17th.
It was at the start that Pierre Gasly finished his first qualifying to the Alps, but running wide of the track limits at his end of the final corner meant he was dropped to the rear of the field.
That moved Nyck de Vries up one place in his regular F1 appearance, the AlphaTauri driver finishing behind Oscar Biastri, who could not escape the relegation zone after being caught up there with Norris after they completed their banked laps in Q1 on the soft used as their first runs on the new Those destroyed by the red flag.
Norris only got into Q2 as the final rookie of 2023, Logan Sargeant, set an identical time on the final lap of Q1, thus being eliminated in 16th place by rule, meaning the driver who set the time first gets put on top. If a competitor later matches their efforts exactly.
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda RBPT||1’29,708|
|2||Sergio Perez||Red Bull/Honda RBPT||1’29,846||0.138|
|5||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin / Mercedes||1’30,336||0.628|
|8||Lance Picnic||Aston Martin / Mercedes||1’30,836||1,128|
|9||Esteban Ocon||Alpine / Renault||1’30,984||1,276|
|10||Nico Hulkenberg||Haas / Ferrari||1’31,055||1,347|
|12||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo / Ferrari||1’31,443||1,735|
|13||Chu Guanyu||Alfa Romeo / Ferrari||1’31,473||1,765|
|14||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT||1’32,510||2,802|
|17||Kevin Magnussen||Haas / Ferrari||1’31,892||2,184|
|19||Nick de Vries||AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT||1’32,121||2,413|
|20||Pierre Gasly||Alpine / Renault||1’32,181||2,473|
“Prone to fits of apathy. Introvert. Award-winning internet evangelist. Extreme beer expert.”