Max Verstappen led a Red Bull 1-2 in qualifying for the season opener of Formula 1’s 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix, with Charles Leclerc third but unexpectedly missing out on the final Q3 drivers.
Carlos Sainz finished fourth ahead of fellow countryman Fernando Alonso, the Aston Martin driver only raced once in the final segment due to one less set of soft tires compared to the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers.
Verstappen had led Leclerc after the opening races of Q3 by 0.103 seconds, but just as the action was set to reach the climax of qualifying, the latter was suddenly climbing out of his Ferrari and was relegated to third place by Perez’s last round improvement.
Up front, Verstappen had already gone even faster in his second run to post a 1m29.708s, meaning he finished ahead of his teammate by 0.138s and Leclerc by 0.292s.
Sainz managed to make a second Q3 flyer and set a personal best, but finished fourth behind his teammate.
Then came Alonso and George Russell, who led Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton into sixth and seventh, with the pair also completing just one run in Q3.
Lance Stroll did the same, although he ran shortly after Alonso and he took eighth place running with his injured right wrist.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon took ninth place ahead of new Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, who scored his first time in qualifying as a full-time F1 driver since 2019 by doing Q3 but lost his only time for overtaking away from the runway limits at turn 4 .
In Q2, Stroll’s final improvement to slip into 10th knocked out McLaren’s Lando Norris, who himself had just moved up from Q1.
All of the drivers eliminated in Q2 set personal bests in their final runs but were pushed back except for Yuki Tsunoda, whose best effort for AlphaTauri just cemented his place in 14th.
Alex Albon also failed to improve on his final lap for Williams, which was staggered from the others and with four minutes of Q2 remaining.
Running solo, Albon ended up giving up the lap after appearing to understeer and beyond the heavily scrutinized Turn 4 track limit, after which he also went off cutting behind the fast left Turn 7 and is thus returned to the pits still in 15th.
Alfa Romeo pair Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu were the other drivers eliminated in the intermediate segment.
Before that, Q1 had barely started when it was flagged down after Leclerc lost two pieces of his front wheel fairing while descending into the pits just before his first run on the mediums.
The first part flew off shortly after he opened his DRS, then when he braked and locked – probably due to the missing aero part – a second, larger part fell from under the Ferrari and crashed immobilized on the track, after which race control chose to stop the session so that the parts could be collected.
When action resumed after an eight-minute delay, Leclerc returned to action after Ferrari repaired his car and he set the third fastest time behind Sainz and Russell.
With a significant track evolution factor, all drivers except Sainz were racing at the end of the opening segment, with Kevin Magnussen completing his final lap with a personal best at the top of the checkered flag emerging but being shuffled. while others later improved and the Dane was out in 17th.
This was first where Pierre Gasly finished his first qualifying for Alpine, but running too far beyond the track limits on his final exit from the final corner meant he was relegated to the back of the pack .
It lifted Nyck de Vries one place in his regular F1 appearance, with AlphaTauri driver finishing behind Oscar Piastri, who couldn’t escape the drop zone after languishing there with Norris after completing their laps of banker Q1 on used softs in their first runs on new ones had been ruined by red flag.
Norris only reached Q2 when 2023’s newest rookie, Logan Sargeant, set an identical time on the final lap of Q1 and was therefore dropped in 16th under the rule which means a driver who set a time first is placed ahead if a rival then exactly matches their effort.
|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||Spear Stroll||Aston Martin/Mercedes||1’30.836||1.128|
|12||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1’31.443||1.735|
|13||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1’31.473||1.765|
|14||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT||1’32.510||2.802|
|19||Nyck de Vries||AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT||1’32.121||2.413|