Verstappen on pole position for season opener

The reigning champion will line up alongside Ferrari's Charles Leclerc on the front row in Bahrain

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 01: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 01, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202403010608 // Usage for editorial use only //

Reigning champion Max Verstappen will start the 2024 Formula 1 season from pole position after setting the pace in qualifying at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Ferrari and George Russell for Mercedes showed strong pace, but the Red Bull driver managed to find time at the end of the session to secure pole.

Charles Leclerc improved his time towards the end of Q3 as he tried to match Verstappen’s effort, but he came up just short.

While Russell found himself in the top three, his teammate Lewis Hamilton will start from ninth alongside Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg on the fifth row.

Fernando Alonso made a strong start for Aston Martin as he starts sixth, but teammate Lance Stroll struggled, having to settle for 12th.

Alpine’s lack of pace showed as Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly make up the back row of the grid, although Gasly’s efforts were hampered by a track limits violation.

The rebranded Visa Cash App Racing Bull team had looked promising throughout practice, but in qualifying they couldn’t find the pace to make it through to Q3.

Provisional qualifying result:

1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

2 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

3. George Russell (Mercedes)

4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

6. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)

7. Lando Norris (McLaren)

8. Oscar Piastri (McLaren)

9. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

10. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas)

11. Yuki Tsunoda (VCARB)

12. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

13. Alex Albon (Williams)

14. Daniel Ricciardo (VCARB)

15. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)

16. Valtteri Bottas (Sauber)

17. Guanyu Zhou (Sauber)

18. Logan Sargeant (Williams)

19. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)

20. Pierre Gasly (Alpine)

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