Verstappen takes first pole position of 2021

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 26: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 26, 2021 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202103260785 // Usage for editorial use only //

Max Vertsappen will start the opening round of the 2021 Formula 1 season from pole position after setting the pace in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

After topping the timing sheets throughout practice, the Red Bull driver finishes qualifying 0.388s ahead of nearest rival Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas completes the top three, while Charles Leclerc joins the Finn on the second row.

It was a debut F1 qualifying session to forget for Nikita Mazepin, as he spun twice, including on his final flying lap, costing him a chance to get off the back row, and disrupting others lap times by bringing out a yellow flag.

Sebastian Vettel was among those to miss out because of Mazepin’s spin, with the German having to back off at the start of his lap because of the incident, leaving him in the bottom five on his first appearance with Aston Martin.

Sergio Perez, on his Red Bull debut, was the big casualty in Q2, with the team hoping medium tyres would see him through to the top 10, only for the Mexican to come up short.

Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso did make it through to the final part of qualifying, despite their teammates both being knocked out early on – they’ll share the fifth row.

Yuki Tsunoda will be the top placed rookie on tomorrow’s grid, with the Japanese driver securing 13th in his first F1 qualifying, but teammate Pierre Gasly is well ahead, having placed his AlphaTauri fifth.

However, there could be late changes to the order, as a number of drivers are due to be investigated by the stewards for setting fast times during the yellow flag caused by Mazepin early on.

Provisional qualifying result:

1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)

4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

5. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)

6. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)

7. Lando Norris (McLaren)

8. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

9. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)

10. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

11. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

12. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)

13. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)

14. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)

15. George Russell (Williams)

16. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)

17. Nicholas Latifi (Williams)

18. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)

19. Mick Schumacher (Haas)

20. Nikita Mazepin (Haas)

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