F1 qualifying results – Verstappen on pole, Alonso 5th, Hamilton 7th

Max Verstappen has taken the first pole of the season for the Bahrain Grand Prix after an absorbing qualifying session that saw Red Bull, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Mercedes all show good pace throughout before the reigning world champion showed his teeth in Q3. Red Bull were the early-season favourites coming into the season-opening weekend after an impressive display at pre-season testing.

But free practice on Friday and Saturday indicated it would be a much closer battle at the front of the grid with Fernando Alonso topping the timesheet. Lewis Hamilton also looked lively in the final free practice session as drivers practiced their qualifying run.

There were a number of surprises too in the first run of Q3 with George Russell and the two Ferraris topping the timesheet while Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez appeared off the pace. McLaren’s woes to start the year were compounded even further with Oscar Piastri failing to move higher than 19th, although Lando Norris did fortunately squeeze through to Q2 despite Logan Sargeant setting the same time.

Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen and Nyck de Vries made up the other three drivers who were knocked out in Q1. Red Bull clearly turned things up a notch for the second session as Verstappen put in a lap nearly three-tenths faster than the rest of the field.

Alex Albon was unable to put a time together in Q2, meaning he will start in 15th while Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyu, Valtteri Bottas and Norris just missed out on the final shootout. Then it was down to the battle for pole with Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and Aston Martin all showing good pace.

Verstappen set the benchmark early on with an exceptional lap by breaking the 1:30 barrier, although Leclerc was just over a tenth behind his rival. Mercedes duo Russell and Hamilton opted to stay in the pits for the start of Q3 before coming out midway through the session.

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